Head coach Shaka Smart, junior guard Isaiah Taylor and senior guard Javan Felix sat slumped at the podium following a loss at TCU on Jan. 9.
Neither Smart nor the two veteran guards had much to say after losing 58-57 to the Big 12’s worst team.
But two weeks later, a much different vibe surrounds the team. The Longhorns head into their showdown at No. 3 Kansas on Saturday riding a three-game win streak, including two wins over ranked opponents — Texas beat then-No.17 Iowa State last week and No. 6 West Virginia on Wednesday night.
Felix said Texas’ mentality has been its biggest difference.
“Ever since then we’ve made a conscious effort to come out aggressive, not only in the games but each and every day in practice so it can be a habit for us,” Felix said.
Despite the wins, the last three games haven’t been pretty for the Longhorns, who now sit tied for second in the Big 12. Outside of the overtime win over Iowa State, Texas has struggled to shoot, hitting just 40 percent in the last two wins.
But the key for the Longhorns has been finishing games. Against TCU, the Longhorns failed to hit the clutch shot, but the win streak has seen a wide-ranging cast come through in the end.
Junior guard Kendal Yancy said Smart’s insistence on being more aggressive has helped them pull out close wins.
“If we come in with an aggressive mindset and wanting to win and compete, we’re pretty hard to beat,” Yancy said.
But keeping that going against Kansas, where Allen Fieldhouse isn’t a home court advantage as much as it’s a near-guaranteed win for the Jayhawks, is a much different story.
The Jayhawks haven’t lost in Lawrence since 2014 and have won more consecutive Big 12 titles —11— than lost games at home —9—during head coach Bill Self’s 12 years at the helm.
Texas hasn’t won at the “Phog” in its last four tries. The last win came in 2011 when Tristan Thompson and J’Covan Brown took the floor for Texas. Top Big 12 teams, Baylor and Oklahoma, have already fallen victim to Kansas’ home success.
Felix said the most difficult part of playing at Allen Fieldhouse is the fans surrounding the court.
“It’s hard to hear,” Felix said. “They’re up and into it the whole game. It’s a really good environment.”
The Longhorns know the 11-time reigning Big 12 champs won’t be an easy out. Still, they’re looking forward to potentially notching another win against a ranked team.
“Let’s go have fun, play loose, play aggressive, play together,” junior forward Shaquille Cleare said.