Texas has a chance to end the regular season by doing something it hasn’t done all year: win back to back conference games.
Julien Lewis led the Longhorns with 18 points in their Jan. 26 win over Texas Tech in Austin.
The Longhorns have followed each of their five previous Big 12 wins with losses, and all but one was by double digits.
Today, Texas (14-16, 6-11 Big 12) will get a golden opportunity for a second straight win in conference play when it tips off in Lubbock against Texas Tech (10-18, 3-14) at 3 p.m. (TV: Big 12 Network).
Inconsistency has been a primary story line for these young Horns this season. Some games they show the promise of a team worthy of dancing in the NCAA tournament, other times they look every bit of what their record suggests - the worst team in the Rick Barnes era.
While Tech has proven to be easily one of the two worst teams in the conference this season along with TCU, a no-show in Lubbock this afternoon could still result in yet another setback. Though it’s not likely, the way this Texas team has performed after wins in Big 12 play this year it’s certainly not out of the question.
“You have a good game and you forget what got you there, and you just let down a little bit, and now you’ve got to start again,” Barnes said on Thursday.
There’s no more room for letting down for the Longhorns. In order to make anything of this season they’ll need to take the momentum gained from their win over Baylor on Monday and find a way to rattle off five straight wins, ending with a win in the Big 12 tournament final a week from today – their only path to the NCAAs.
The confidence is there despite the sub-.500 record now that Myck Kabongo is back, but the results have been very - wait for it - inconsistent. Though the Horns have beaten three NCAA bubble teams – Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor – since the point guard’s return, they’ve also lost three games by an average of 17 points – Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.
Barnes says the win over Baylor was the most complete game the Horns have played all year. It’s now time for Texas to prove it can play with consistency and find a way to string together some "complete" performances, or accept its fate in a meaningless post-season tournament.
“We’ve talked enough,” Barnes said. “You’ve got one regular season game and where we are, you would think you wouldn’t need a whole lot of motivation other than if you look at where we are and what we’re doing.”
Quick Look at Texas Tech
The Red Raiders are improved from last year, but that's not saying much after their 1-17 showing in conference play in 2012.
Two of Tech's wins have come against the woeful Horned Frogs, and the other was an upset of Iowa State at home in late January. Heading into today's game against Texas, the Raiders have lost 10 of 11, and their win last weekend over TCU snapped a nine-game losing streak.
The one area where Texas Tech is above average this season is forcing turnovers. It is second in the conference averaging 14.5 turnovers per game, and is No. 1 in the Big 12 with over eight steals per game.
Individually, Jaye Crockett is their go-to scorer. The 6-foot-7 junior forward leads the team with 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
However, Tech's other 6-foot-7 forward, Jordan Tolbert, has been its best option since conference play started. Tolbert is averaging a team-best 10.4 points in Big 12 play and is connecting on 53.7 percent of his shot attempts. In the first game against Texas he went for 18 points and 13 boards, including eight offensive rebounds.
Freshman point guard Josh Gray is the other big threat on the Red Raider roster. The 6-foot-1 Louisiana product is second in the Big 12 in steals and tenth in assists. He's also averaging 9.5 points per game in his first year in Lubbock.
G Josh Gray, 6-1, Fr. (9.5 pts, 2.4 reb, 3.3 ast, 2.0 stl)
G Dusty Hannahs, 6-4, Fr. (6.8 pts, 36.6% 3s, 1.1 reb)
G Jamal Williams, 6-4, Jr. (4.7 pts, 2.2 reb, 1.3 ast)
F Dejan Kravic, 6-11, Jr. (8.5 pts, 50.5% FG, 5.1 reb)
F Jordan Tolbert, 6-7, So. (9.7 pts, 54.2% FG, 5.5 reb)
F Jaye Crockett, 6-7, Jr. (11.8 pts (50.2% FG, 30.6% 3s), 6.8 reb, 1.4 stl)
G Daylen Robinson, 6-0, Jr. (3.3 pts, 1.3 reb, 1.9 ast)
G Toddrick Gotcher, 6-4, Fr. (2.3 pts, 1.5 reb)
F Kader Tapsoba, 6-10, Jr. (2.6 pts, 1.7 reb)
G Ty Nurse, 6-1, Sr. (2.0 pts, 0.8 ast)