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Texas Basketball: Longhorns Sputter in Defeat of Red Raiders

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The No. 3 Texas Longhorns remained undefeated in the Big 12 conference with a 76-60 victory over the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Texas has now navigated half its conference season unscathed and is off to its best ever start in the Big 12 at 8-0. That is the good news. However, for the first time in Big 12 play, the Longhorns failed to play a full 40 minutes, and the lack of effort and execution should give Rick Barnes plenty of game tape to refocus the ‘Horns for the rest of February and March.

This game started like many conference games have as Texas jumped to an early double digit lead and led by as many as 21 points in the first half. Through much of the first half, Texas looked capable of eclipsing the 31 point margin by which they won in Lubbock in January. To Tech's credit, the Red Raiders kept fighting.

The lead was trimmed to 16 at halftime and to as low as seven points early in the second as Tech came out hot. Even giving a deserving nod to Pat Knight's bunch, it is also worth noting that the Longhorns hurt themselves-missed dunks, missed layups, bobbled passes, missed free throws, turnovers, and what appeared to be a general lack of interest and energy all contributed to making this game much closer than it should have been.

After the jump a few quick highs and lows...

Good News:

  • Another conference victory by double digits.
  • Texas was challenged. Tech made its run, but there was no panic and the Longhorns had to realize, maybe for the first time in conference play, that you don't win with incomplete games.
  • J'Covan Brown's shooting and poise off the bench. I thought JCB picked his spots and handled the ball well (three assists to one turnover in 26 min). In one of those "good teammate" moments we are all hoping for, J'Covan ran to pick-up Jai Lucas from the floor, after Jai had converted a lay-up, even as Tech played the ball back up the court. Sure, it may not have been the smartest defensive choice but that is exactly the kind of "all in this together" stuff that was nonexistent last season.
  • Matt Hill. The big man from Nebraska is starting to string together solid performances. He has always been a smart basketball player, solid screener, and good low post defender. Now he has added a more aggressive attitude on the glass. Hill scored six points (all on putbacks, I think) and snagged six boards in only 11 minutes on the court. His energy and efficiency is exactly what Barnes needs when Tristan Thompson sits.

Bad News

  • Starting power forward Gary Johnson played 34 minutes and isn't credited with a single rebound. His shooting from the floor and from the line was solid but Texas will need more from Gary on the glass to win in March.
  • Against a below average rebounding team, Texas won the boards only 35-32. The Horns also game up 14 offensive rebounds and barely led second chance points, 13-12.
  • Tristan Thompson from the stripe: 1-for-5. TT shoots a higher percentage from the floor than he does from a set distance with no one guarding him. Not good.
  • Sloppy Basketball. Texas committed 16 turnovers on the game, many of which came in a run that allowed Tech to cut a 21 point lead with three minutes left in the first half to just a seven point margin after the first six minutes of the second half.
  • Lost John Roberson. Roberson helped keep Texas Tech in the game with his team-high 16 points. In previous games, the Longhorns D has completely shut down perimeter players like Marcus Denmon, Keiton Page, and even Roberson in the first match-up. Tonight, though, Texas lost Roberson a few times it the half court, and Roberson made the Horns pay with some three balls (3-of-6 from deep).

All that said, the end result was never really in question, and the ‘Horns still sit alone in first place in the Big 12 conference. More than even the conference race, Texas remains in prime position for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament a potential path to the Houston Final Four which could include a placement in the San Antonio regional. That is what we're playing for now-a protected seed and a potential Tulsa-San Antonio path the Final Four.

Looking ahead, as we bloggers are prone to do, Texas travels to Norman for it's mid-week game on Wednesday and then hosts Baylor on Saturday and Oklahoma State the following Wednesday. All three are projected wins and would produce an 11-0 mark.

After that Texas goes to Nebraska (toss-up), hosts Iowa State (projected W), goes to Colorado (love the CU guards), gets Kansas State in Austin (revenge time from Denis Clemente's destruction of the ‘Horns), and closes the regular season at Baylor (who knows what the Bears will look like in early March). As PB broke-down, 16-0 is possible but still not likely. More likely, Texas finishes at 15-1 and grabs a solo title or 14-2 and ties with the Jayhawks for another Big 12 title.

Next Game: at Oklahoma  -- Wednesday, February 9th 8 pm   ESPN2