AUSTIN, Texas – After an 86-76 upset win over Iowa State on Saturday there's no sense of worry for Rick Barnes when it comes to hoping his team refocuses.
Connor Lammert feels like he and his teammates aren't happy with just one big win over Iowa State.
The Longhorns (14-4, 3-2 in the Big 12) will back on the court in a little over 24 hours as they host Kansas State (14-4, 4-1) at the Erwin Center. The win over the then-No. 8 Cyclones was huge but this team is a long way away from being able to breathe easily, especially with the Wildcats coming to town.
“I hope by now, with as many games as we've played, they should know that if they aren't ready to play we'll get beat,” Barnes said. “All they have to do is look around. There's six teams in the Big 12 who are ranked and we're not one of them. I don't know what else you need to say other than that.”
Apparently that's all that needs be said.
Barnes and his players on Monday didn't appear to be a team content with just one big home win. Texas isn't ranked but the Longhorns are very much alive in the Big 12 title hunt and a win over the Wildcats would make the Longhorns one of four teams in the league with two losses in Big 12 play.
Much like Barnes wants this team to realize the importance of playing a full 40 minutes on the floor, five games of an 18-game conference schedule is one portion of a marathon.
“We can't be satisfied,” Connor Lammert said. “We're 3-2 but that's not going to get it done. I was glad that we moved on from there.”
Texas needs to look no further than the team it beat on Saturday and the team it faces this weekend to see how quickly things can get away from them after a nice run. Iowa State was unbeaten before its current three-game skid while Baylor won 12 of its first 13 games before dropping three of its last four.
Demarcus Holland talked about the importance of defending home court on Monday.
A lot of the current Longhorns know what it's like to go cold in league play – Texas lost its first five Big 12 games last season – and some feel they've learned the key to surviving the conference grind.
“Keeping a level head,” Lammert said. “We can't let the freshmen get too excited about a big win or too down about tough loss. Maintaining that even thought process is key for us.”
Tomorrow's game against Kansas State is huge for a number of reasons.
One of them being the need to protect the home floor. Texas has already let one home game slip away with the Big 12-opening loss to Oklahoma, so even more than a 4-2 start it's getting a win inside The Drum that's of great value to this team.
“If you drop one you have to go to someone else's place and pick one up,” Demarcus Holland said. “That's tough.”
Texas is facing a red-hot Kansas State team that's won 12 of its last 13, including a home win over Oklahoma State. The Wildcats had a rough start but Barnes figured Bruce Weber's team would pull it together at some point.
Barnes noted that he and Weber are around the same age, have been coaching for around the same amount of time and tend to preach the same things like good, tough defense, taking care of the ball and a team concept.
Rick Barnes expects the Longhorns to face a tremendous defensive challenge from Kansas State on Tuesday.
“I've always respected Bruce because his teams are highly disciplined,” Barnes said. “They do a lot of the little things.
The Wildcats average more than ten points per game less than Texas (78.3-68.1) but they distribute the ball well. K-State averages 14.9 assists per game and like the Longhorns the Wildcats don't have one dominant scorer (Marcus Foster leads the team averaging 14 points per game).
“They keep the ball moving,” Barnes said. “There's not a lot of possessions where the ball gets stuck, which makes them really hard to defend.”
Defensively the Wildcats present a tremendous challenge for Texas. K-State leads the Big 12 in scoring defense (59.9 points per game), is second in defensive field goal percentage (39.5) and have allowed a league-low 81 three-point field goals made.
“They do as good job as anybody we'll play with the discipline to maintain their position on the defensive end,” Barnes said.
Barnes has seen a good amount of growth from his team. You'd hope he would considering the Longhorns are one of the least experienced teams in the country, ranking as the seventh-least experienced program nationally according to kenpom.com.
Still, growth is pretty broad term. Barnes still looking for more consistency from his bunch.
Rick Barnes singled out Kendal Yancy for his play despite his minutes being inconsistent.
“I still don't think we're as consistent as we need to be in terms of understanding every possession,” Barnes said. “You can't get caught up in the emotion of the game. They want to enjoy it but you have to play.
“You can talk about experience but I'd rather talk about concentration and staying on edge.”
Outside of when Jonathan Holmes was in foul trouble during the first two Big 12 games the minutes have been consistent for the Longhorns top-five players. After Holmes, Holland, Cameron Ridley, Javan Felix and Isaiah Taylor nothing has been consistent with the minute distribution.
Damarcus Croaker, Kendal Yancy, Prince Ibeh and Martez Walker have all seen their minutes fluctuate throughout the season. Depending on the opponent, one of those guys could play double-digit minutes in one game and not see the floor the next time out.
That said, Yancy earned praise from Barnes. While it's tough to figure Barnes' rotations, he cited Yancy having not played against West Virginia and the playing seven minutes and grabbing seven rebounds in the win over Iowa State as being exactly what he wants.
“The message there is he was ready,” Barnes said. “On any given night you don't know who it's going to be.
“Don't sit there wondering if you're going to play,” he added. “Worry if you play doing your job and then we'll have the confidence to know that he'll do it the next time.”
Holland feels like there's been a gradual mindset change within the team throughout the year in that regard.
“Being young everybody wants to worry about playing time,” Holland said. “I think people look at me, Jon and Cam, guy who work hard for what they want, and they realize that they have to do whatever it takes to play. They realize that helping us win means more than your individual success.”
Barnes mentioned it after the win on Saturday and he on it again Monday. The biggest difference between the Longhorns' 0-2 start to Big 12 play and the last three wins have been fouls and turnovers.
Taylor, Felix and Holland combined for 10 assists and just two turnovers against Iowa State. The eight turnovers for the Longhorns were a season low. Texas also shot 31 free throws Saturday with many of those chances create by grabbing offensive rebounds and forcing Iowa State to make quick decisions to prevent second-chance points.
“The biggest thing we've talked about is understanding assist-to-turnover ratio,” Barnes said. “Take open shots and be ready to shoot the ball when shots are there. If we do that I think we'll shoot a high percentage because we've got the floor pretty balanced to where guy know where to go to rebound.”
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