These guys again: Texas
The Texas Longhorns, presumed before the season began to occupy the same air at the top of the Big 12 with Kansas — or perhaps operate at a slightly higher stratosphere — are running out of time to save face.
Rick Barnes, in search of his 400th career win Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse against the No. 8-ranked Jayhawks (22-6 overall, 11-4 Big 12), would have had that milestone out of the way weeks ago had his team lived up to its preseason No. 10 expectations.
However, after UT went 11-2 in the non-conference — with one of those losses coming at Kentucky — the ’Horns never found their stride in the Big 12. Coming into a rematch with KU, Texas is 6-9 in the league and eighth in the standings.
The Longhorns have one quality win in the league: they beat West Virginia at home on Jan. 17. Their other five wins?
Two against Texas Tech
Two against TCU
One on the road against a Marcus Foster-less Kansas State
While the Jayhawks are working toward earning an 11th straight Big 12 championship, the Longhorns (17-11) might still have work to do just to get into the NCAA Tournament. The latest edition of Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology at ESPN.com has Texas among the “first four out.” (Kansas is a No. 2 seed in the South, where Duke is No. 1.)
So, yeah, winning at Kansas would kind of be a big deal for UT.
Kansas enjoyed one its best all-around games of the season at Texas, on Jan. 24, when the Jayhawks won 75-62. But the Longhorns, as expected, gave KU issues inside, to the tune of 9 blocked shots.
This group of Longhorns, in fact, already holds the program’s single-season record for swats: 207.
In Big 12 play, they lead the conference with 7.4 denials a game. That’s also their season average, which ranks No. 1 in the nation.
With all of that in mind, here is a refresher on the Longhorns KU will have to hold back to get one win closer to a regular-season title.
No. 1 — Isaiah Taylor, 6-1, sophomore G
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 23 points, 8/17 FGs, 0/1 3s, 7/8 FTs, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 TO, 1 steal in 35 minutes
KU’s perimeter defenders had issues staying in front of the speedy point guard, who tied his season high with 23 points against the Jayhawks.
Since returning from a left wrist injury for the start of Big 12 play, Taylor is averaging a team-leading 13.1 points for UT, to go with 3.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists.
Taylor is hitting just 37.5% of his shots in the league and has only connected on 6 of 26 3-pointers (23.1%). But his quickness off the dribble gets him to the foul line: 58 for 71 (81.7%).
The fact that his 12 steals in 15 Big 12 games leads the team shows you how much UT’s defensive success is about the length of the front line. You would think he would be able to gamble more and come up with more takeaways.
After a stretch of 3 straight games in single digits, Taylor enters the KU rematch coming off a 23-point showing vs. Iowa State and a 13-point effort at West Virginia (both losses).
— hoop-math.com update: Taylor shoots more 2-point jumpers than he does shots at the rim or 3-pointers. 47.6% of his shots have come in that in-between range (a 6.1% increase since the last time UT played KU), and he’s made 33 of 98 (33.7%).
No. 10 — Jonathan Holmes, 6-8, senior F
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 14 points, 5/9 FGs, 2/5 3s, 2/2 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 TOs in 30 minutes
One of the team’s more talented returning players, and the lone scholarship senior, the inside-outside threat has averaged just 8.4 points in Big 12 play, making 35.7% of his shots and 13 of 49 3-pointers (26.5%).
Holmes, a 1,000-point career scorer, suffered a concussion midway through the second half of a home game vs. Oklahoma State on Feb. 4 and missed the following 2 games.
His offensive numbers since that injury have impacted his conference averages:
5 points, 1/5 FGs vs Tech
5 points, 2/9 FGs, 1/6 3s at OU (still got 11 rebounds)
2 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/2 3s vs. ISU
6 points, 2/3 FGs, 2/3 3s at WVU
— hoop-math.com update: Holmes does not take many shots at the rim (29.8% of his 215 attempts have come at that distance), and he converts 51.6% of the time at point-blank range.
No. 55 — Cameron Ridley, 6-9, junior C
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 8 points, 3/4 FGs, 2/5 FTs, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 TOs, 2 blocks in 28 minutes
The man who will be easiest to spot on the floor Saturday is listed at 285 pounds, and KU players on offense will be looking for him, because he has 169 career blocked shots (fourth all-time at UT).
In Big 12 play, Ridley swats 1.7 shots a game, scores 8.1 points, hauls in 6.0 rebounds and makes 59.5% of his shot attempts.
His 2.5 offensive rebounds in Big 12 games rank fifth in the conference.
He has gone four straight games, though, without reaching double figures in points or rebounds. And he only has 3 blocks in that stretch.
— hoop-math.com update: Appropriate for his size, 65.3% of Ridley’s shots come at the rim, and he has made 73.4% of them this season. His 30 put-backs lead Texas.
No. 2 — Demarcus Holland, 6-2, junior G
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 6 points, 3/6 FGs, 0/1 3s, 4 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 assists, 4 TOs in 32 minutes
Sixth on Texas in scoring in Big 12 play, Holland averages only 5.9 points a game. But he is coming off a season-high 14 points at West Virginia.
Maybe UT just needs to let him shoot more. In league games, Holland makes 48.6% of his attempts and 45% of his 3-pointers (9 of 20). He made 5 of his 7 shots and 2 of 3 3-pointers at WVU.
However, he had only made 9 of 16 free throws (56.3%) in conference play.
— hoop-math.com update: Keep him mid-range and you should be OK defensively. Holland has only hit 8 2-point jumpers in 35 attempts (22.9%), while he converts 66.2% of his shots at the rim and 46.3% of his 3s.
No. 0 — Kendal Yancy, 6-3, sophomore G
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 0 points, 0/1 FGs, 1 rebound in 3 minutes off the bench
KU will see much more of Yancy this time, now that he’s in the starting lineup.
Barnes changed his role 6 games ago, and the second-year guard has taken off of late. In his last 3 games, Yancy is averaging 17.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, making 48.7% of his shots and has hit 9 of 20 3-pointers (45%).
Since becoming a starter, he put up:
7 points, 5 rebounds at K-State
12 points, 4 rebounds vs. TCU
3 points, 1 rebound vs. Tech
14 points, 6 rebounds at OU
29 points, 9/17 FGs, 6/9 3s, 5/6 FTs, 5 rebounds vs. ISU
9 points, 4 rebounds at WVU
It is clear from the Iowa State game he is explosive. In Big 12 play, he had made 13 of 37 3-pointers (35.1%).
— hoop-math.com update: 18 of his 20 2-point jumpers have been unassisted. Translation: he can score one-on-one.
No. 52 — Myles Turner, 6-11, freshman F
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 8 points, 4/11 FGs, 0/3 3s, 8 rebounds (3 offensive) 0 TOs, 5 blocks, 5 fouls in 27 minutes
The guy KU wishes would’ve chosen crimson and blue instead of burnt orange leads Texas with 2.6 blocks and 6.4 rebounds a game in the Big 12, while scoring 10.5 points on 42.4% shooting.
In his last four games, the talented first-year (likely one-and-done) center has posted a pair of double-doubles while averaging 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Turner came off the bench in the last three games and his recent numbers would’ve looked even better if not for a dud at WVU: 7 points, 1 rebound, 2/6 FGs in 24 minutes.
— hoop-math.com update: More than half (51.1%) of Turner’s attempts are 2-point jumpers. He has hit 49 of 114 (43%).
No. 3 — Javan Felix, 5-11, junior G
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 0 points, 0/6 FGs, 0/3 3s, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 TO in 17 minutes
Not many teams can say they shut down Felix, but the Jayhawks did just that in Austin.
The guy averages 9.1 points in Big 12 play, makes 42% of his shots and shoots 43.9% from deep, but he registered a goose egg against KU. This from a dynamic guard who has led his team in scoring 5 times in conference play.
Felix is the best 3-point shooter in a Texas uniform, with a team-best 25 made in Big 12 play, on 57 attempts.
Is he due for a breakout game? Felix scored just 2 points vs. Iowa State and only played 2 minutes at West Virginia.
— hoop-math.com update: Fourth on the team in field-goal attempts (201), Felix takes the majority of his shots (56.2%) from 3-point range. Only 12.4% of his attempts have come at the rim, where he has made 14 of 25 (56%). He makes 42.9% of his 2-point jumpers.
No. 21 — Connor Lammert, 6-9, junior F
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 3 points, 1/6 FGs, 1/5 3s, 6 rebounds, 1 blocks, 0 TOs in 20 minutes as a starter
The former Texas starter now joins a talented bench unit. In Big 12 games, he averages 4.6 points and 4.2 rebounds and has made 12 of 39 3-pointers.
Lammert scored a season-high 12 points at K-State earlier this season, and had 8 points at WVU.
— hoop-math.com update: Lammert actually leads UT rotation players in FG% at the rim: 75%. He has made 18 of 24 with 10 coming via assists.
No. 44 — Prince Ibeh, 6-10, junior C
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 0 points, 0/0 FGs, 4 rebounds, 1 block in 8 minutes
The backup big man only plays 9.3 minutes and scores just 1.7 points a game in the Big 12, but he’s the kind of defensive rim protector that can bother KU, swatting shots and forcing misses.
Ibeh blocked 4 shots at K-State (a season high) and swatted away 2 apiece at Baylor, OU and WVU.
— hoop-math.com update: Not exactly an offensive focal point for UT, Ibeh doesn’t venture outside of the paint often. 80.5% of his shots come at the rim and he makes 69.7% of them,