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Posts tagged with Texas Basketball

Athletic Longhorns will rely on defense in rematch with KU

Texas head coach Shaka Smart directs his defense during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Texas head coach Shaka Smart directs his defense during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Congratulations, Kansas. You just wrapped up at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title (again). You’re about to be ranked No. 1 in the nation (again). Now get on down to Austin, Texas, on a two-day turnaround to face Shaka Smart’s Longhorns, who already have home victories over North Carolina, Iowa State, Vanderbilt, West Virginia and Oklahoma this season.

Such is life in the Big 12.

Texas (19-10 overall, 10-6) also comes into the Big Monday finale with little rest, but the ’Horns didn’t have any traveling to do after beating Oklahoma at Frank Erwin Center, eliminating their rivals from league title contention.

Smart’s teams get after it defensively, as the Longhorns showed at Allen Fieldhouse last month, when they blocked 8 shots and held KU to 40% shooting.

In Big 12 games, UT leads the league in fewest points allowed (68.2) and 3-point FG% defense (33%). So of course, Texas’ defense carried it against the Sooners on Saturday. The Longhorns went on a massive 22-0 run in the second half, holding OU to 0-for-9 shooting in that stretch — including 0-for-4 for Buddy Heild. Texas out-rebounded Oklahoma by 12 in the win and limited OU to 29% shooting in the second half.

That marquee victory could be topped against KU (25-4, 13-3) on Senior Night for such Longhorns as Javan Felix, Demarcus Holland, Prince Ibeh, Connor Lammert and Cameron Ridley (out, fractured left foot). If Smart can get another inspired defensive showing from his team and keep the Jayhawks constrained, Texas will have a shot at pulling off the first victory over a No. 1-ranked team in program history. The ’Horns already own a 3-0 mark at home against top-10 teams this season.

Kansas, meanwhile, has an outright Big 12 championship at stake. Win this game and West Virginia is out of the picture.

With all of those factors in mind, here are the Longhorns the Jayhawks will have to go through to extend their winning streak to 10 games.

TEXAS STARTERS

No. 1 — PG Isaiah Taylor | 6-3, jr.

Texas guard Isaiah Taylor (1) drives to the basket against Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Austin, Texas. Texas won 76-63. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Texas guard Isaiah Taylor (1) drives to the basket against Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Austin, Texas. Texas won 76-63. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

— Jan. 23 at KU: 13 points, 6/11 FGs, 0/1 3s, 1/2 FTs, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 turnover, 1 steal in 37 minutes

  • UT’s third-year starting point guard, junior Isaiah Taylor leads the team in scoring (15.5 points), assists (5.0), free-throw% (81%), steals (27) and minutes (30.8 mpg).

  • In league games, Taylor has 84 assists to 25 turnovers (3.4 ratio).

  • Put together a pretty impressive day vs. OU: 18 points, 5 assists and 0 turnovers.

  • For all his quickness and ball-handling ability, Taylor hasn’t been a guard who can stretch the floor for UT. He has just 14 successful 3-pointers on 54 tries this season (25.9%). In 16 conference games, Taylor is 8 of 33 (24.2%) from downtown.

No. 3 — G Javan Felix | 5-11, sr.

Texas guard Javan Felix (3) floats a shot over Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) and guard Frank Mason III (0) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Texas guard Javan Felix (3) floats a shot over Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) and guard Frank Mason III (0) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 23 at KU: 12 points, 5/12 FGs, 0/2 3s, 2/2 FTs, 1 rebound, 6 assists, 1 turnover, 2 steals in 30 minutes

  • Neck-and-neck with fellow senior Connor Lammert for title of UT’s best 3-point shooter this season, Javan Felix (11.1 points) has made 43 of 119 (36.1%) of his long-range jumpers…

  • … However, Felix has gone cold from deep in conference action, connecting on just 17 of his 65 3-point attempts (26.2%). He hasn’t made more than 1 3-pointer in a game in his past 6 outings (3-for-17, 17.6%).

  • In UT’s 11 games against top-25 competition this year, Felix has averaged 12.2 points and made 27 of 30 free throws.

  • Much like Taylor, Felix takes care of the basketball. With 65 assists and 32 turnovers on the season, he has a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.

  • Scored 14 points against Oklahoma in UT’s big win, but had his worst ball-handling game of the season, with 5 turnovers and just 1 assist.

No. 44 — C Prince Ibeh | 6-11, sr.

TCU forward Devonta Abron (23) is blocked by Texas center Prince Ibeh (44) as he drives to the basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Austin, Texas. Texas won 71-54. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

TCU forward Devonta Abron (23) is blocked by Texas center Prince Ibeh (44) as he drives to the basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Austin, Texas. Texas won 71-54. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

— Jan. 23 at KU: 7 points, 3/4 FGs, 1/3 FTs, 7 rebounds (3 offensive) 3 turnovers, 7 blocks, 1 steal, 4 fouls in 35 minutes

  • An athletic big man capable of wreaking havoc on defense, senior Prince Ibeh (4.1 points) might be salivating at the thought of a KU rematch after he swatted away a career-high 7 shots at Allen Fieldhouse earlier this season. That was the most blocked shots for a KU opponent since Anthony Davis rejected 7 against the Jayhawks in Nov., 2011.

  • In UT’s last 10 games (7-3), Ibeh is averaging 7.1 points, 6.2 boards and 2.2 blocks in 21.4 minutes. In that span, Ibeh is shooting 62.8% from the floor.

  • Ibeh blocked 6 shots in just 16 minutes in UT’s home win over WVU earlier this month.

  • Making 67.9% of his shot attempts in Big 12 play, Ibeh at times is unstoppable in the paint. However, he can and should be fouled when he gets touches down low. Ibeh has made just 14 of 41 free throws (34.1%) against league foes.

  • Went and got 8 offensive rebounds (11 total) and scored 13 points in a victory over Vanderbilt.

No. 21 — F Connor Lammert | 6-10, sr.

None by Big 12 Conference

— Jan. 23 at KU: 15 points, 5/7 FGs, 5/7 3s, 4 rebounds, 1 turnover, fouled out in 30 minutes

  • Although Ibeh is more intimidating, senior big man Connor Lammert (6.9 points, team-leading 5.4 rebounds) actually brings more consistent offensive production.

  • Lammert scored 14 points, burned OU for 4-for-7 shooting from 3-point distance and swiped 2 steals on Saturday.

  • Like Ibeh, Lammert had a career game in UT’s first meeting with Kansas this season: 15 points and 5 3-pointers.

  • As mentioned earlier, Lammert has been one of UT’s best shooters this season, making 44 of 122 3-pointers (36.1%). But he also has maintained that in Big 12 play, unlike Felix. Lamert has hit a team-best 29 3’s against conference opponents on 76 attempts (38.2%).

No. 2 — G Demarcus Holland | 6-3, sr.

None by Big 12 Conference

— Jan. 23 at KU: 0 points, in 4 minutes off the bench

  • More of a team leader than stat producer, senior Demarcus Holland (2.6 points) has 88 career starts, tops on the roster.

  • Has started 3 times in Big 12 contests while logging just 9.9 minutes in 15 games, averaging 1.7 points and making only 32% of his shots.

  • Has gone scoreless in 3 straight games and 5 of the past 6.

  • Shooting 3-for-11 on 3-pointers in Big 12 games.

TEXAS BENCH

No. 10 — G Eric Davis Jr. | 6-2, fr.

None by Dallas Morning News

— Jan. 23 at KU: 13 points, 6/11 FGs, 1/2 3s, 5 rebounds (2 offensive), 1 steal in 21 minutes

  • Freshman Eric Davis (7.9 points) likes the spotlight. In 11 games vs. top-25 teams, the young guard averages 9.6 points and has hit 20 of 38 from beyond the 3-point arc (52.6%).

  • Starting to produce more consistently, Davis scored 10 points vs. Oklahoma, marking his fourth consecutive double-digit scoring game. During that run, he is averaging 11.5 points in 24.0 minutes, with 9 successful 3-pointers on 16 attempts (56.3%).

  • Hitting 35.8% of his 3-pointers in league games: 19 of 53.

No. 0 — G/F Tevin Mack | 6-6, fr.

None by Horns247

— Jan. 23 at KU: 0 points, 0/3 FGs, 0/3 3s, 1 turnover, 1 block in 10 minutes

  • Freshman backup Tevin Mack only plays 14.1 minutes but averages 5.5 points.

  • In his most impressive Big 12 outing to date, Mack hit 5 of his 12 3-pointers, scored 18 points and secured 5 rebounds in a loss at Iowa State.

  • That 3-point performance at ISU was a tad uncharacteristic. In the rest of his 15 league games combined, Mack has made 13 of 48 from long range (27%).

  • Has gone scoreless in back-to-back games, shooting 0-for-7 from the field in combined 21 minutes.

No. 5 — G Kendal Yancy | 6-3, jr.

None by Horns247

— Jan. 23 at KU: 0 points, 0/1 FGs, 0/1 3s, 3 rebounds, 1 assist in 12 minutes as a starter

  • Veteran backup Kendal Yancy (3.3 points) doesn’t take a lot of shots, but he has made 46.8% of his attempts in Big 12 games (22 of 47).

  • The same holds true for Yancy 3-pointers: 9 of 19 (47.4%) vs. the Big 12.

  • Scored a personal season-high 13 points and shot 3-for-4 on 3-pointers in a loss at OU.

No. 12 — G Kerwin Roach Jr. | 6-4, fr.

None by Inside Texas

— Jan. 23 at KU: 5 points, 1/5 FGs, 3/6 FTs, 2 rebounds in 19 minutes

  • Freakishly athletic, freshman Kerwin Roach (7.1 points) is the most likely Longhorn to put a defender in a highlight reel or Vine loop.

  • The more Roach plays the better he looks. In UT’s past 10 games, the first-year guard is averaging 9.9 points and 3.9 rebounds, and making 59.2% of his shots.

  • Had 12 points and 3 rebounds in win over OU.

  • Produced his first career double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) to go with 2 assists and 4 steals as Texas beat Vanderbilt in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

  • In 16 Big 12 games, has made 8 of his 21 tries from 3-point range.

  • Registered 2 or more steals 3 times in Big 12 play.

No. 32 — F Shaquille Cleare | 6-8, jr.

— Jan. 23 at KU: 2 points, 1/2 FGs in 3 minutes

  • When you see junior big man Shaquille Cleare (3.4 points) go to work, you’re not surprised to learn the massive post player’s favorite former Longhorn is Dexter Pittman.

  • A transfer from Maryland who sat out last season, Cleare put up a career-best 14 points in a loss to Baylor just over a week ago and pulled down 3 of his 5 rebounds on offense.

  • Making 56.9% of his shot attempts in Big 12 action, while averaging 4.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 14.3 minutes.

Reply 2 comments from Chuckberry32 Dannyboy4hawks

Getting to know Shaka Smart’s surging Longhorns

Texas head coach Shaka Smart, right, celebrates with Ryan McClurg, left, and Javan Felix, center, and Cameron Ridley, center rear, after beating North Carolina in an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Austin, Texas. Texas won 84-82. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Texas head coach Shaka Smart, right, celebrates with Ryan McClurg, left, and Javan Felix, center, and Cameron Ridley, center rear, after beating North Carolina in an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Austin, Texas. Texas won 84-82. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

As the initial season for a new head coach often goes, Shaka Smart’s first few months leading Texas have featured some highs and lows.

UT began the season 2-3. A few weeks later, Smart’s Longhorns knocked off North Carolina.

Then Big 12 play got started and Texas dropped road games at Texas Tech and TCU.

But as the former VCU coach makes his inaugural trip to Allen Fieldhouse for Saturday’s game against No. 3 Kansas (1 p.m. tip-off, ESPN), Smart finally might have his team rolling in the right direction. Texas has won 3 in a row in the brutal Big 12, defeating Iowa State (in overtime), Oklahoma State and, most impressively, West Virginia on the road.

To give you an idea of the kind of guard play the Longhorns have enjoyed of late, Texas had more steals (5) than WVU (3) on the road earlier this week, when the ’Horns defeated the No. 6-ranked Mountaineers. UT only committed 5 turnovers against ISU and had 8 against both OSU and WVU, winning the turnover margin in all 3 victories.

A third of the way through the Big 12 schedule, Texas (12-6 overall, 4-2 Big 12) leads the league in scoring defense (67.7 points allowed), 3-point field-goal percentage defense (opponents have shot 28.3%) and turnover margin (+2.33 a game).

As KU (15-3, 4-2) looks to recover from another road loss, here are the Longhorns who the Jayhawks will have to keep in check.

TEXAS STARTERS

No. 1 — PG Isaiah Taylor | 6-3, jr.

Texas guard Isaiah Taylor (1) drives to the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia, Wednesday, Jan, 20, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. Texas defeated West Virginia 56-49. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

Texas guard Isaiah Taylor (1) drives to the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia, Wednesday, Jan, 20, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. Texas defeated West Virginia 56-49. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

  • Averaging 16.4 points and shooting 45.2% on the season, junior Isaiah Taylor’s game has improved since conference play began. Taylor averages 19.2 points in Big 12 games, a stretch in which he has made 45.8% of his 3-pointers.

  • Nine of Taylor’s 15 steals this season have come in Big 12 action.

  • Went coast to coast for a running, game-winner in UT’s December win at Stanford.

  • The reigning Big 12 Player of the Week averaged 23.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the Longhorns’ wins over Iowa State and OSU.

  • Scored a career-high 35 points, with 6 assists and 1 turnover at Texas Tech in a loss.

  • Third season as UT’s starting point guard and has started all 77 games of his career.

No. 3 — G Javan Felix | 5-11, sr.

None by Bevobeat

  • The Longhorns’ best 3-point weapon, senior Javan Felix is shooting 41.5% from long range and averaging 11.1 points a game.

  • However, while Felix’s points have increased in Big 12 play (13.2 a game), his 3-point accuracy has taken a dive (8 of 30, 26.7%).

  • Felix’s big night in Morgantown, W. Va., made UT’s upset victory possible. He scored 17 points, hit 2 of 3 from deep and went 7 of 8 at the free-throw line at WVU.

  • Hit the buzzer-beating, game-winning jumper from the baseline to defeat UNC (then ranked No. 3) in December.

  • Has 54 double-figure scoring games in his career, including 8 games of 20 points or more.

  • Tied for the team lead in steals (15), and in 4 games vs. top-25 opponents, averages 13.8 points, thanks in part to an 8-for-14 mark from 3-point range.

No. 21 — F Connor Lammert | 6-10, sr.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) puts up a shot over Texas forward Connor Lammert (21) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) puts up a shot over Texas forward Connor Lammert (21) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

  • Texas big man Connor Lammert (6.2 points, 7.0 rebounds in Big 12) enjoys stepping outside to take jumpers and 3-pointers. But Lammert has only made 8 of 30 (26.7%) from behind the arc in conference games, and is shooting 29.3% from the floor overall 6 games in.

  • In the 7 games Texas has played without injured big man Cameron Ridley, Lammert leads the team in rebounding (7.1 a game).

  • Enjoyed big rebounding outings against Connecticut (8 boards), Kansas State (9), TCU (11) and Oklahoma State (8).

No. 5 — G Kendal Yancy | 6-3, jr.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes hard to the bucket against Texas guard Kendal Yancy (0) and forward Myles Turner during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes hard to the bucket against Texas guard Kendal Yancy (0) and forward Myles Turner during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

  • More of a role player who doesn’t get starter’s minutes (10.8 a game in Big 12), junior Kendal Yancy averages 3.7 points and 2.0 rebounds in conference play.

  • So far, his shot selection against league opponents has proven wise: 9 of 16 from the floor (56.3%), 3 of 7 from 3-point range (42.9%), and Yancy has only committed 2 turnovers in 6 Big 12 games.

  • Tied his season high with 7 points at WVU, going 3 for 3 from the field.

  • Yancy has only attempted 13 shots from 3-point range this season, hitting 5. He’s had less success at the free-throw line: 6 of 17 (35.3%).

No. 44 — C Prince Ibeh | 6-11, sr.

Dejounte Murray of the Washington Huskies tries to throw past Prince Ibeh of the Texas Longhorns during a match at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai, China, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. The University of Texas and University of Washington played the first-ever regular-season college men's basketball game in China at Shanghai's Mercedes Benz Arena, organized by the Pac-12 conference in partnership with Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Dejounte Murray of the Washington Huskies tries to throw past Prince Ibeh of the Texas Longhorns during a match at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai, China, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. The University of Texas and University of Washington played the first-ever regular-season college men's basketball game in China at Shanghai's Mercedes Benz Arena, organized by the Pac-12 conference in partnership with Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Given the issues Kansas sometimes has with finishing around the rim, senior Prince Ibeh could wreak havoc in the paint. While the Longhorns would be even more dangerous with center Ridley (injured) inside, Ibeh has blocked 26 shots this season — 12 in Big 12 play.

  • Ibeh (3.5 points, 6.3 rebounds in league) also has proven to be UT’s most active offensive rebounder, with 16 in the past 6 games. Of his 72 total boards, 30 have come on offense.

  • Ranks 5th all-time at Texas with 174 career blocks (Ridley is 3rd, with 220).

  • Blocked 4 shots and grabbed 3 offensive rebounds in UT’s win over Iowa State.

  • Swatted 5 shots in just 18 minutes vs. UConn.

TEXAS BENCH

No. 0 — G/F Tevin Mack | 6-6, fr.

None by Peter Bean

  • Freshman Tevin Mack hasn’t started a game for UT, but he comes off the bench ready to fire. Mack (6.2 points) just hasn’t shot the ball that well on the season, though. He’s shooting 29.6% from the field, and his 3-point tries — 22 of 72 (30.6%) — aren’t helping his numbers.

  • Ranked No. 48 in the Class of 2015 by ESPN, Mack delivered his biggest game to date in burnt orange when he scored 14 points and made 3 of his 8 3-point attempts, with 2 assists and 0 turnovers as Texas defeated Iowa State.

No. 10 — G Eric Davis Jr. | 6-2, fr.

Texas guard Eric Davis Jr. (10) and teammate Connor Lammert (21) celebrate after Davis hit a three-point shot against the Texas Arlington during overtime of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Austin, Texas. Texas won 80-75. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Texas guard Eric Davis Jr. (10) and teammate Connor Lammert (21) celebrate after Davis hit a three-point shot against the Texas Arlington during overtime of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Austin, Texas. Texas won 80-75. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Essentially a smaller, more consistently effective version of Mack at this point, fellow freshman Eric Davis Jr. (8.1 points) also steps onto the court looking to score.

  • Davis ranks 2nd on UT in 3-pointers made (26), hitting 35.6% from deep. He has connected on 41.2% of his 2-point tries.

  • Twice named the Big 12’s Newcomer of The Week, Davis already has produced double-digit points on 7 occasions.

  • Versus top-25 teams, Davis is averaging 13.0 points a game and hitting 56.3% of his shots — including a mark of 11-for-19 from 3-point range (57.9%).

  • Put up 16 points (4-for-5 from 3-point land) against UNC.

  • Scored season-high 19 points (4 of 7 on 3-pointers) vs. Texas A&M, which is now ranked No. 10 in the nation.

No. 32 — F Shaquille Cleare | 6-8, jr.

None by The Daily Texan

  • Junior big man Shaquille Cleare’s responsibilities have increased with the absence of Ridley. Cleare averages 4.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in 15.0 minutes through 6 Big 12 games.

  • Cleare isn’t the shot-blocker that Ridley is. The junior has 0 swats in 90 minutes of league action. But he has converted well inside: 58.8% on field goal attempts.

  • A transfer from Maryland, Cleare sat out the 2014-15 season.

No. 12 — G Kerwin Roach Jr. | 6-4, fr.

  • A freakishly good athlete who is more of a defensive pest than anything else at this stage of his career, freshman Kerwin Roach Jr. averages 3.8 points in Big 12 games. Still, Roach is capable of dunking on almost anyone’s head (see above clip).

  • Ranked the No. 34 prospect in his prep class by Rivals.com, Roach averages 5.6 points on the year.

  • Scored 11 points, with 3 boards and 2 steals in UT win over OSU.

Reply 4 comments from Zabudda Cassadys

Big 12 notebook: Niang’s role won’t change under new ISU coach

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Kansas City, Missouri — When new Iowa State coach Steve Prohm arrived in Ames, Iowa, he inherited a top-10 quality roster with loads of potential.

In order to maximize the Cyclones’ success in 2015-16, Prohm knew he’d have to completely understand how best to utilize multi-talented senior forward Georges Niang. So the former Murray State coach watched a lot of video from the past few seasons, and figured he might as well call up a Niang expert: his ISU predecessor, Fred Hoiberg.

Given Niang’s success under Hoiberg — 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 40-percent three-point shooting last season — Prohm said Tuesday at Big 12 Basketball Media Day, at Sprint Center, he doesn’t want to wreck a good thing.

“He knows how important he is to this team,” Prohm said of Niang. “I do want to challenge him on the defensive end to become a better rebounder, to rebound out of his area and do some things defensively that we need. But offensively, I don't see it changing at all. I just hope he can even excel it even more.”

Learning the league

None by Big 12 Conference

First-year Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart hasn’t spent too much time considering detailed game plans for the rest of the Big 12. Smart said with the non-conference schedule getting things started, he has focused more on that and establishing a new culture in the first couple weeks of practice.

The former VCU coach admitted, though, there will me an adjustment period for him once league play begins.

“Obviously, the stakes are higher, the crowds are more loud, they're more into the game,” Smart said of road venues he said of conference venues he’ll visit for the first time in 2016. “And certainly, as a new coach in the Big 12, I'm going to have to get to know what this league's all about, particularly on the road.”

Sooners matching experience with youth

None by Big 12 Conference

Lon Kruger enters this season with the luxury of returning some of the most talented senior guards in the Big 12 — preseason player of the year Buddy Hield and running mate Isaiah Cousins. But the OU coach won’t hesitate to rely on some freshmen in spots, too.

On the wing, Kruger likes promising, versatile rookies Rashard Odomes (6-foot-6) and Christian James (6-4).

“They're very aggressive, physical on the boards,” the OU coach said of the duo. “They rebound the ball well from the wing. They can score. For incoming freshmen, they've been well-coached. They have a good feel for the game, great enthusiasm for working every day, and the real benefit, too, from having Buddy and Isaiah, from a work ethic standpoint, in the gym all the time. And those guys come in and see what they do and fall in line and they'll benefit from that a great deal, too.”

Don’t poke the Bear

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As if Baylor forward Rico Gathers wasn’t already enough of an imposing presence on the court, Bears head coach Scott Drew said the 6-foot-8, 275-pound senior has refined his offensive skill set since last season.

Gathers averaged 9.6 points and 10.6 rebounds as a junior, but only made 42.7 percent of his field goals and 57.8 percent of his free throws. As a result, Drew said the big man spent a lot of the offseason in the gymnasium.

“So first and foremost, if he can become a 75-, 80-percent free-throw shooter, his production is going to go way up,” Baylor’s coach said.

“Second thing,” Drew added, “because we have a lot of length in practice, him finishing over length every day is something that will help. His jump shot has improved. It's a lot softer, a lot better rotation.”

Who are these Wildcats?

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With eight players gone form last season’s roster and seniors Justin Edwards and Stephen Hurt, along with junior Wesley Iwundu, the only readily recognizable players left, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber hasn’t lost all hope.

In fact, Weber, whose Wildcats finished 15-17 a year ago, is having fun coaching the mostly overhauled Wildcats.

“They haven't been perfect by any means, but I'd say nine out of the first ten days we just coached them,” Weber said. “We didn't have to beg them to go hard or get after them to go hard, so that makes it a lot easier.

“Now you can worry about the stuff you're supposed to worry about, you know, setting up the angle on the screen, the defense, getting in the right position or how you're going to guard something and you're not wasting as much time.”

No defensive adjustments necessary at WVU

None by Nicole Auerbach

College basketball rules changes dominated much of the discussion at media day, and Bob Huggins — whose West Virginia teams have become known for their assertive defense and pressure — isn’t quite sure yet what to make of the removal of the five-second closely guarded rule.

“I’d like to sit here and give you a very intelligent answer, but obviously I can't. So I don't know,” the WVU said, with a wry grin.

Huggins, whose pants decorated with WVU logos were a hit, said he’ll still ask his guards to defend on the ball with pressure, like always.

“Everybody's going to run a quick-hitter into a ball screen anyways, and that's what everybody did against us for the last 30 years, because we tried to not let people run offense,” Huggins said. “So we ended up guarding ball screens or sprints, and that's what's going to happen. I don't think that changes much.”

Forte can’t do everything

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There is no question which Cowboy’s name will appear on the proverbial marquee every time Oklahoma State plays this season. However, OSU coach Travis Ford said senior guard Phil Forte III, admittedly a “leading man,” can’t be expected to do it all.

“I think last year we relied way too much on just (LeBryan) Nash and Forte, and that was my fault,” Ford said.

Ultimately, the lack of balance made the Cowboys a less effective team.

“We had a lot of big wins and probably overachieved in a lot of areas,” the OSU coach added of the 18-14 season, “but it caught up to us at the end of the year. It caught up to us.”

Shooters and scorers?

None by TCU Basketball

Often sarcastic in entertaining dealings with the media, TCU coach Trent Johnson didn’t disappoint Tuesday morning at Sprint Center.

When a reporter began a question by referencing Johnson’s team full of shooters and scorers, the coach had to stop him right there.

“My team’s full of good shooters and good scorers this year? I don’t know about that,” Johnson said, straight-faced. “Depends on what practice you’re watching.”

Eventually, the coach admitted the Horned Frogs have some experience — juniors Karviar Shepherd and Chris Washburn enter their third year of contributing — and some nights “the ball goes in.”

He said TCU’s ability to get back on defense and limit opponents’ good scorers and shooters would probably determine how successful a season 2015-16 turns out to be.

Rebuilding Red Raiders

None by Big 12 Conference

Texas Tech hasn’t finished a season with a winning record since 2009-10. So third-year coach Tubby Smith realizes rebuilding the program won’t be easy in the Big 12.

Smith said the Red Raiders’ annual struggles mean they have to change the culture.

“Although we have great fans and great student support on our campus, and in Lubbock in general, there are a lot of great fans, we still have to continue to grow the program when it comes to recruiting to keep improving,” Smith said, “whether it's facilities or other areas. We know that the competition is stiff no matter where in trying to influence or persuade down the middle to attend the university.”

Reply 3 comments from Zabudda Table_rock_jayhawk Koolkeithfreeze

KU’s Elite Eight loss to VCU comes up on Shaka Smart’s first day at Texas

The VCU bench celebrates a turnover against Kansas on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

The VCU bench celebrates a turnover against Kansas on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Mike Yoder

Shaka Smart, whose 2011 VCU Rams busted onto the college hoops scene by toppling No. 1 seed Kansas on the way to the Final Four, didn’t flee for the first big-name university to call him up once he became a hot coaching commodity. He stuck it out in Richmond, Virginia, and waited for the right job.

The up-and-coming, 37-year-old coach from a previously unheralded program in a far-from-major conference has arrived in the Big 12, where KU has reigned supreme for 11 consecutive seasons.

Friday, Texas introduced Smart as its new men’s basketball coach — a move that could change the landscape of Big 12 basketball for years to come.

At VCU, Smart’s teams won 74.4% of their games with his “havoc” brand of full-court pressure defense and up-tempo offense. The Rams led the country in steals per game for three consecutive seasons (2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14) and ranked fourth nationally this past year (9.5 spg).

With that unique brand of basketball, VCU joined Duke as the only two programs in the nation to win at least 26 games in each of the past six seasons — not even Kansas could make that claim, thanks to a 25-10 showing in 2013-14.

Make no mistake, that Elite Eight win over KU in San Antonio four years ago catapulted Smart into the college hoops zeitgeist. Without that victory, who knows if he is standing in Austin, Texas, today flashing a “hook ’em, Horns” sign.

None by Texas Longhorns

With Smart landing at Texas, that VCU-Kansas game came up at his introductory press conference. A reporter asked the new Longhorns coach whether his “havoc” brand of hoops translated well to a major conference such as the Big 12.

Smart’s fearlessness and swagger showed up in his answer:

“It translated pretty well a few years ago in San Antonio.”

On that day, 11th-seeded VCU beat top-seeded Kansas, 71-61. The Jayhawks had lost twice all season before shooting 22-for-62 (35.5%) against Smart’s Rams and missing all but two of their 21 three-pointers (9.5%). KU turned the ball over 14 times (20.6% of its possessions), and VCU harassed Kansas star forward Marcus Morris into eight giveaways.

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks the sideline during the second half of KU's loss to Virginia Commonwealth Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks the sideline during the second half of KU's loss to Virginia Commonwealth Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Mike Yoder

After the loss, KU coach Bill Self said the Rams didn’t get the Jayhawks’ best shot, “but they had a lot to do with it not being our best shot.”

Basically, Kansas performed way out of character, because Smart’s Rams wanted the game to play out in that fashion.

“They were the aggressor,” Self said at the time. “Our whole deal is, ‘They are a scrappy team. We’ve got to be scrappier. Attack. Attack.’ They were the ones on the attack much more than us.”

Following the biggest victory of his career, the then-VCU coach said his senior-laden team established the tone in the first half (KU trailed 41-27 at the break).

“And if you watch closely, their players were tugging on their shorts for much of the game. When you don’t have your legs, it’s hard to make outside shots.”

“… That’s why we play the way we play,” Smart said. “That’s part of our havoc style is getting people winded, getting people fatigued.”

A little more than four years later, the new Texas coach reflected on the marquee victory and said his VCU team had a swagger and belief about it “that I think you have to have to beat those types of teams.”

Now his goal is to replicate that at UT.

“That’s what we’re gonna work towards here. And I think that is very, very doable, but it takes a connected effort. It takes a group of guys that are willing to put the team agenda front and center and understand if the team succeeds, everyone benefits.”

The Big 12 has some of the best coaches in America, and now that Smart has arrived on the scene, dominating the league will become even more difficult for KU and Self. When Smart spoke at his introductory press conference about what attracted him to the Texas job, he repeatedly mentioned its “world class” athletics department and the pride UT takes in winning championships.

Rick Barnes didn’t exactly leave Texas in shambles. Yes, Myles Turner and Jonathan Holmes are gone. But Isaiah Taylor, Demarcus Holland, Javan Felix, Cameron Ridley, Kendal Yancy, Connor Lammert and Prince Ibeh all figure to be back next season.

And now UT has a young, energetic, charismatic coach in charge of a sleeping giant of a basketball program. Meaning, Texas will likely start landing even better recruiting classes.

Shaka Smart didn’t say it out loud during his first appearance in burnt orange — and why would he? — but you know his goal is for Texas to knock KU from its Big 12 throne, and give the league another powerhouse program that annually contends for national titles.

Reply 22 comments from Erich Hartmann Plasticjhawk Cshjhawk Swishymcjayhawk Zeikmontellioso Gary McCullough Don Burgundy Kingfisher Scott Smetana Jayhawkmarshall and 4 others

These guys again: Texas

Texas forward Myles Turner (52) blocks a shot by Kansas forward Cliff Alexander during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Texas forward Myles Turner (52) blocks a shot by Kansas forward Cliff Alexander during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

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.

By the Numbers: Kansas wins 75-62 at Texas

By the Numbers: Kansas wins 75-62 at Texas

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.

LONGHORNS STARTERS

No. 1 — Isaiah Taylor, 6-1, sophomore G

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) loses the ball after slipping on the court while defended by Texas guard Isaiah Taylor (1) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) loses the ball after slipping on the court while defended by Texas guard Isaiah Taylor (1) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

— 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

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) fights for a rebound with Texas forward Jonathan Holmes (10) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) fights for a rebound with Texas forward Jonathan Holmes (10) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

— 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

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) puts up a three over Texas center Cameron Ridley (55) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) puts up a three over Texas center Cameron Ridley (55) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

— 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

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) shrugs off Texas defenders Demarcus Holland (2) and guard Kendal Yancy during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) shrugs off Texas defenders Demarcus Holland (2) and guard Kendal Yancy during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

— 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.

LONGHORNS BENCH

No. 52 — Myles Turner, 6-11, freshman F

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) pulls up for a three as he is defended by Texas forward Myles Turner (52) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) pulls up for a three as he is defended by Texas forward Myles Turner (52) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

— 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

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) puts up a shot over Texas forward Connor Lammert (21) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) puts up a shot over Texas forward Connor Lammert (21) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

— 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,

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Bill Self: KU has to take care of business in Big 12 race

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. roars after Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) dove out of bounds for an attempted save before the Jayhawks' bench during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. roars after Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) dove out of bounds for an attempted save before the Jayhawks' bench during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

With Kansas University back atop the Big 12 basketball standings and one of the league’s preseason favorites, Texas, coming to Allen Fieldhouse Saturday, KU coach Bill Self had his weekly press conference Thursday afternoon.

The coach hit on KU’s loss at Kansas State this week, what Iowa State’s loss to Baylor means for the Jayhawks and just how good the Longhorns (17-11 overall, 6-9 Big 12) are, despite not living up to expectations — among other topics.

Here are some of the highlights from the Q&A:

Self didn’t watch the Iowa State-Baylor game Wednesday night. He watched Duke and Virginia Tech and another one. If he watched it, he’d be nervous and all of that. KU’s assistants watched it. … “I followed the score.”

ISU was playing well before Baylor went on a run, from what he heard. Kansas knows how good Baylor is — the Bears gave the Jayhawks all they wanted.

All that matters in the next week-plus is KU (22-6, 11-4) taking care of business. But Self had to be a Baylor Bears fan on Wednesday night. Plus, that ISU loss probably gives the KU players a little bit of extra energy with the Jayhawks back atop the Big 12.

There should be high drama in the Big 12 to close the regular season, and it’s a great league. The race deserves to come down to the wire.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) boxes out Texas forward Myles Turner during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) boxes out Texas forward Myles Turner during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

Perry Ellis is probably playing as close to his ceiling as he has in his career and that has gone to an even higher level the past few games.

KU’s offense fell off in the last 10 minutes at Kansas State. The spacing was bad and the screening was poor, as it has been al year. Ellis has been the only offensive threat inside. It would be nice to throw the ball to a big inside and have him get fouled or score.

KU still has players who need to deliver at center. Plus, Frank Mason III needs to drive to the paint.

Self was really proud of how Jamari Tryalor handled the contact from a K-State fan amid the crowd storming after the game in Manhattan. He didn’t talk about that or the storming with players. They need to move on. When you keep talking about something like that you sound like a “whiny brat.”

Texas freshman Myles Turner is playing great. The Longhorns are a lot like the Jayhawks. They can play terrific or take a noticeable step back. Turner is playing a lot of minutes, playing closer to the basket and he is hard to guard because he gets his shot off too quickly.

UT has an imposing a front line as any team in America, probably with the exception of Kentucky. They’re still capable of beating anybody.

KU freshman big Cliff Alexander didn’t get a good chance to play at K-State because of quick fouls. He was probably more effective coming off the bench than he has been as a starter. He actually had some “unlucky” fouls at K-State. Keeping him out of foul trouble so he can play with reckless abandon would probably be his best-case situation.

There will be a spotlight on the state of Kansas Saturday with Wichita State and Northern Iowa playing Saturday afternoon — two top-10 kind of teams playing with the league on the line.

And it will be festive at Allen Fieldhouse for KU and Texas. The GameDay crew will be at both games and that will be cool for the state of Kansas.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) shrugs off Texas defenders Demarcus Holland (2) and guard Kendal Yancy during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) shrugs off Texas defenders Demarcus Holland (2) and guard Kendal Yancy during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

The Big 12 has a lot of guards who can get to the paint, and Isaiah Taylor is one of the dominant point guards. There is Mason, Monté Morris, Juwan Staten, Kenny Chery and Taylor. This is a point guard league right now. Taylor and Staten — the two KU plays next — are probably the best at getting inside.

They say guards win. Self would say there are less marquee big guys in the Big 12 this season compared to year’s past. This year, the dominant players are guards, or undersized bigs, like Ellis and Georges Niang.

Back when Kevin Durant played at Allen Fieldhouse for Texas, Self asked Danny Manning about him and the former KU great said, “That’s the baddest man that ever played on this floor.”

UT has had some greats, such as Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge. Texas has recovered nicely since losing a bunch of guys in one season early, which probably was anticipated.

• KU assistant Jerrance Howard is happy to be back at work. They haven’t made a big deal about it.

• Panic isn’t the word, but KU didn’t play with poise the final 10 minutes at K-State. There was poor ball and body movement on offense from KU down the stretch. Mason wasn’t a factor and they were able to negate Ellis primarily. K-State defended them very well.

— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self talks Big 12 race, Texas and more

Reply 10 comments from Robert  Brock Allison Steen Greg Lux David Robinett Leikness Michael Wattai Koolkeithfreeze Robert Brown Don Burgundy

Getting to know No. 17 Texas

Texas head coach Rick Barnes has harsh words for Demarcus Holland during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Texas head coach Rick Barnes has harsh words for Demarcus Holland during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

More often than not, Kansas University’s basketball team has found success against Texas.

All-time, KU is 23-8 against the guys in burnt orange.

But winning in Austin, Texas, hasn’t come as easily for the Jayhawks. UT has prevailed six times in 12 tries.

It so happens the Frank Erwin Center is the site of Saturday’s showdown between two of the Big 12’s most talented teams.

You might remember last season Kansas hit a major road block at said arena, losing 81-69 as the Longhorns swatted 12 KU shots.

Dating back to last season, No. 17 UT (14-4 overall, 3-2 Big 12) has won 17 of its last 19 at home.

What’s more, Texas has a history of success against Top-25 teams under coach Rick Barnes at home. The Longhorns are 34-19 vs. AP ranked teams at the Erwin Center.

This season, UT is second in the Big 12 in scoring defense (56.3 points allowed) to TCU (55.7 allowed), and leads the league in field-goal percentage defense (34.4%) and blocked shots (7.7 a game).

No. 11 Kansas (15-3, 4-1) will increase its chances of winning on the road Saturday afternoon if the Jayhawks can make at least 40% of their shots. In the Barnes era, Texas has held 276 opponents to below 40% shooting, and the Longhorns are 249-27 (.902 winning percentage) in those games. This season, UT is 12-1 when holding foes below 40%.

With all of that in mind, here are the Longhorns KU has to worry about in Austin.

LONGHORNS STARTERS

No. 10 — Jonathan Holmes, 6-8, senior F

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRNZiFZFDIc

An interior veteran for the ’Horns, he averages 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds while hitting 46.5% of his shots.

However, Holmes has been off at times this season, including in a few recent Big 12 games:

  • 0-for-10, 0 points in 34 minutes, in a loss at Oklahoma State (Jan. 10)

  • 2-for-9, 4 points in 30 minutes, in a loss to Oklahoma (Jan. 5)

  • 3-for-5, 9 points in 23 minutes (4 fouls), in a win at TCU (Jan. 19)

Maybe his most productive game of the season came in a Jan. 17 win over West Virginia: 16 points, 11 rebounds. But he only made 2 of his 6 field goals in that one, while cashing in at the foul line (11-for-12).

The lone scholarship senior for Texas, Holmes hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left in the Longhorns’ November win at Connecticut. The big man doesn’t mind stepping outside, and has hit 24 of his 65 3’s this season (36.9%).

hoop-math.com nugget: Not only does Holmes not take many shots at the rim (33.6% of his 152 attempts have come at that distance), he doesn’t shoot a great percentage there (49%).

No. 1 — Isaiah Taylor, 6-1, sophomore G

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe defends against a drive by Texas guard Isaiah Taylor during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe defends against a drive by Texas guard Isaiah Taylor during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

An injury to his left wrist in late November forced him to miss 10 games this season, but Texas managed to go 8-2 without its floor general.

Taylor returned just in time for Big 12 play. In his eight games this season, he’s averaging 11.4 points, 3.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals, while making 39% of his shots and 6 of 18 from 3-point range.

He’s not a pass-first point guard. Despite the time he missed, he is sixth on the team in field goal attempts (82) and averages 10.3 shots a game.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Taylor shoots more 2-point jumpers than he does shots at the rim or 3-pointers. 41.5% of his shots have come in that in-between range, and he’s only made 9 of 34.

No. 55 — Cameron Ridley, 6-9, junior C

Kansas forward Perry Ellis pulls a rebound from Texas center Cameron Ridley during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis pulls a rebound from Texas center Cameron Ridley during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The guy is a load in the paint: 6-foot-9, 285 pounds. When he gets position, look out.

Ridley made 8 of his 10 shots and scored a season-high 19 points in UT’s 27-point victory over West Virginia last week. And he added six rebounds and four blocks to his stat line.

In his last two games, he’s averaging 14.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks, while hitting 70.6% of his shots.

The big man has a team-high 38 offensive rebounds (2.1 a game) and averages 8.7 points and 4.8 boards.

In the NCAA Tournament last season, his last-second put-back beat Arizona State and sent Texas to the Round of 32.

Defensively, he turns away 1.8 shots a game (third in the Big 12).

— hoop-math.com nugget: 62.6% of his shots come at the rim and he has made 74.2% of them this season. His 18 put-backs lead Texas.

No. 2 — Demarcus Holland, 6-2, junior G

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins puts up a three over Texas guard Demarcus Holland during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins puts up a three over Texas guard Demarcus Holland during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

He earned the team’s defensive player of the year award in each of his first two seasons in Austin, Texas. His ability doesn’t show up in his individual stats (9 steals, 3 blocks). Holland just has a tendency to lock down the man he’s guarding and work hard to be in the right spot defensively.

That’s part of the reason he leads Texas in minutes played (30.0 a game).

Holland averages 7.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists, and he’s a selective 3-point shooter (10-for-22) who also makes 49.5% of his total field goals.

He contributed 10 points, 4 boards (3 offensive), 5 assists and 2 steals in UT’s most difficult game of the season, at No. 1 Kentucky.

In his last two games, though, Holland hasn’t generated many points: 4 vs. WVU and 2 at TCU in a combined 63 minutes. He did set up teammates for 4.5 assists in that two-game span.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Keep him mid-range and you should be OK defensively. Holland has only hit 3 2-point jumpers in 20 attempts, while he converts 64.2% of his shots at the rim and 45.5% of his 3’s.

No. 21 — Connor Lammert, 6-9, junior F

Oklahoma State post Kamari Murphy (21) holds his head and Texas forward Connor Lammert (21) applauds after Murphy was called for a foul during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma State post Kamari Murphy (21) holds his head and Texas forward Connor Lammert (21) applauds after Murphy was called for a foul during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) by Sue Ogrocki

A role player in the starting unit, he averages just 5.1 points and 5.8 rebounds.

Lammert’s one double-double this season came against Long Beach State, and he had 9 rebounds (4 offensive) in UT’s loss at Kentucky.

He has tried to be a spot-up 3-point shooter for Texas but has little success doing so: 12-for-42 (28.6%). He has scored 6 points or fewer in seven straight games.

In Big 12 games, Lammert is only averaging 3.8 points in 15.2 minutes and shooting 35.7% from the field.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Lammert actually leads UT rotation players in FG% at the rim: 77.8%. He has made 14 of 18 with 8 coming via assists.

LONGHORNS BENCH

No. 52 — Myles Turner, 6-11, freshman F

In this Nov. 16, 2014, file photo, Texas’ Myles Turner defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alcorn State in Austin, Texas. Texas basketball is rolling _ both the men and the women _ and making a splash among the nation’s best just two seasons after both had seemed to hit bottom. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

In this Nov. 16, 2014, file photo, Texas’ Myles Turner defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alcorn State in Austin, Texas. Texas basketball is rolling _ both the men and the women _ and making a splash among the nation’s best just two seasons after both had seemed to hit bottom. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Finally, we get to the most talented player on the Texas roster.

Perhaps the Longhorns’ biggest name, Turner comes off the bench but leads UT in scoring (11.8 points) and rebounding (6.8 boards) while playing just 22.4 minutes a game.

The freshman big man, who chose Texas over Kansas, also leads his team in blocks (2.7) and personal fouls (2.5).

His knack for swatting foes’ shots puts Turner atop the Big 12 in blocks per game.

Barnes experimented with starting him for a three-game stretch that included UT’s first two Big 12 games, but the 6-foot-11 freshman only scored 8 points at Texas Tech and 4 against Oklahoma.

In Turner’s last three games, back in his reserve role, he scored 18 at Oklahoma State, 16 vs. West Virginia and 11 at TCU.

Turner not only gets to the free-throw line, he makes his trips count. His 77 attempts lead UT and he shoots a team-best 88.3% at the line.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Almost half (47.9%) of Turner’s attempts are 2-point jumpers. He has hit 26 of 68 (38.2%).

No. 3 — Javan Felix, 5-11, junior G

Kansas guard Frank Mason hoists a three over Texas guard Javan Felix during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason hoists a three over Texas guard Javan Felix during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Another highly productive sub, he scores 10.5 points a game.

Felix led Texas with 15 points against TCU, and has made at least one 3-pointer in all 17 games he has played in this season. He made 2 of 5 from long range in the road win and has hit 30 of 81 on the season (37%).

In Big 12 play, he leads the Longhorns in scoring (11.6 points) and has connected on 11 of 25 3-pointers (44%).

Felix has scored in double figures in 7 of his last 10 games.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Tied for the team lead in field-goal attempts (152), Felix takes the majority of his shots (53.3%) from 3-point range. Only 15.8% of his attempts have come at the rim, where he has made 13 of 24 (54.2%). But he does make 44.7% of his 2-point jumpers.

No. 0 — Kendal Yancy, 6-3, sophomore G

When Taylor was out, Yancy averaged 7.2 points, and 4.4 rebounds in 27.2 minutes. He started and scored 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting in 34 minutes against Stanford (an overtime loss).

On the season, he averages 4.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 19.4 minutes.

Yancy has struggled as a 3-point threat, making just 7 of 26 attempts (26.9%).

— hoop-math.com nugget: All 11 of his 2-point jumpers have been unassisted.

No. 44 — Prince Ibeh, 6-10, junior C

Kansas forward Perry Ellis turns for a shot against Texas center Prince Ibeh during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis turns for a shot against Texas center Prince Ibeh during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

The backup big man only plays 10.4 minutes and scores just 2.4 points a game, but he’s the kind of defensive rim protector KU has struggled against.

Ibeh ranks 10th on UT’s all-time career swat list, with 122 and has 21 blocks this season.

He had a season-high 7 rebounds in just 13 minutes at TCU.

— hoop-math.com nugget: As you would expect, Ibeh doesn’t venture outside of the paint often. 78.8% of his shots come at the rim and he makes 65.4% of them,

Reply 2 comments from Roger Ortega Texashawk10_2

Getting to know the Longhorns

Texas men's basketball coach Rick Barnes, left, talks with Cameron Ridley in the first half of a NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Waco, Texas.

Texas men's basketball coach Rick Barnes, left, talks with Cameron Ridley in the first half of a NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Waco, Texas.

Maybe we should have known Rick Barnes would have his Texas Longhorns right back in the thick of the Big 12 hunt this year.

But after the Horns went 16-18 last season and lost in the first round of the CBI Tournament (yes, that is a thing; it's a rung below the postseason NIT) it seemed easy to think Texas would spend 2013-14 rebuilding.

Not exactly. With three straight wins over ranked opponents, Texas nabbed a ranking of its own, coming in at No. 25 in this week's poll. The Longhorns are 16-4 overall and 5-2 in the Big 12, which puts them in third place (a half-game behind Oklahoma) entering Saturday.

Suddenly, Texas is one of the surprise teams of the nation. But, really, we should have seen it coming. As KU coach Bill Self talked about Friday morning, last season was an anomaly for UT.

Prior to the Horns' cameo in the CBI, Barnes led Texas to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first 14 years with the program. In fact, UT reached the Sweet 16 five times in the past 12 years. Only 12 other programs in the nation have made it to that stage at least five times in that span: Duke (nine), Kansas (nine), Michigan State (seven), Connecticut (six), Kentucky (six), North Carolina (six), Syracuse (six), Wisconsin (six), Arizona (five), Pittsburgh (five), Louisville (five) and Xavier (five).

Anybody who has kept up with the Big 12 since its inception in 1998-99 knows what Texas is capable of under Barnes. Obviously, Kansas (winner of nine straight league titles) has the best record in that span at 208-43. Behind the Jayhawks, in second, is Texas (172-79), with 23 more wins than Oklahoma.

Texas has won five straight games — vs. Texas Tech, at West Virginia, vs. Iowa State, vs. Kansas State and at Baylor — entering Saturday's showdown at the Erwin Center with No. 6 KU (16-4, 7-0).

So, how are the Longhorns doing it?

In Big 12 games, they are hitting 45.6% of their shots (second to KU's 54.4%), they lead the league in field-goal percentage defense at 40.6%, they're second in three-point field goal percentage defense (31.3%, only slightly behind Texas Tech's 30.6%), they pull down a league-best 38.4 rebounds a game and they swat 5.6 shots a game (second in the Big 12 to KU's 5.9 blocks).

In its current win streak, Texas is holding opponents to 66.6 points a game on 39.2% shooting and 25.9% from three-point land.

Let's meet the players who make it happen on both ends of the floor.

Jonathan Holmes, No. 10

6-8, 240, jr. forward

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTxiFpuJqWw

Holmes owns the signature play of the Longhorns' season to date, with a buzzer-beating three-pointer from the right corner that beat Kansas State, 67-64, on Jan. 21 in Austin. On the season, he has converted 19 of his 50 from downtown.

He and freshman guard Isaiah Taylor lead Texas with 15 double-figure scoring games so far this season. Holmes averages 12.9 points and 7.4 rebounds a game.

His board numbers are a little better in Big 12 games, in which he averages 8.3, third-best in the league.

Javan Felix, No. 3

5-11, 195, so. guard

Kansas guard Ben McLemore and Texas guard Javan Felix look for a possession call from a game official during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore and Texas guard Javan Felix look for a possession call from a game official during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

The leading returning scorer from the disappointing 2012-13 Longhorns (6.8 points), Felix has scored in double figures 14 times in his second year at Texas.

This season, Felix is averaging 12.2 points and 3.0 assists. But he began to step up his game when UT got to its conference schedule. Through seven Big 12 games, the sophomore leads Texas with 15.6 points per game, and has made 40 of 97 field goals. In non-conference games, he shot 32.4% from the floor and averaged 10.3 points.

Felix dished five assists, with no turnovers, in the Longhorns' win over Baylor.

Isaiah Taylor, No. 1

6-1, 170, fr. guard

Taylor had a career night, scoring 27 points at Baylor this past Saturday, as you can see in the video clip below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzPRD7qjXPM

The young floor leader, who made 10 of 18 shots, seven of eight free throws, and had three steals and three assists, said after the game that the team's bigs, Cameron Ridley and Holmes, opened things up for the Longhorns' guards.

During UT's five-game winning streak, Taylor has averaged 13.4 points and 2.8 rebounds a game. On the year, he has put up 11.7 points and 3.7 assists a game.

Cameron Ridley, No. 55

6-9, 285, so. center

The big man's 8.9 rebounds a game in Big 12 play are second only to Oklahoma's Ryan Spangler (11.1). Ridley averages 3.1 offensive rebounds and 2.4 blocks in league games.

He swatted away five shots against Iowa State, marking the fourth time in his career he blocked at least five in one game. In fact, Ridley blocked six twice this season, against BYU (in a loss in November) and UT-Arlington.

The Longhorns' overall leading rebounder this season (7.8 a game) — and shot blocker (48 this season) — also scores 11.2 points an outing.

Demarcus Holland, No. 2

6-2, 185, so. guard

Kansas guard Travis Releford pressures Texas guard Demarcus Holland during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Travis Releford pressures Texas guard Demarcus Holland during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

At 8.6 points a game, Holland doesn't light up the scoreboard too frequently, but he's a glue guy that makes Texas successful.

Even with a 6-2, 185-pound frame, the sophomore guard averages 5.0 rebounds. Holland fills his role-player duties so well that Barnes plays him 31.4 minutes a game. Holland leads Texas with 24 steals, and is third in assists (52).

Texas bench

Connor Lammert, No. 21

6-9, 235, so. forward

Oklahoma State post Kamari Murphy (21) holds his head and Texas forward Connor Lammert (21) applauds after Murphy was called for a foul during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma State post Kamari Murphy (21) holds his head and Texas forward Connor Lammert (21) applauds after Murphy was called for a foul during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) by Sue Ogrocki

Sixth on the team in minutes (19.1 a game), the backup big is the Longhorns' fourth-best rebounder (4.8 a game). Lammert adds 5.5 points per game and shoots 50% from the floor.

Four times this season, Lammert has scored in double figures, the latest coming at Oklahoma State, where he contributed 11 on 5-for-8 shooting.

Prince Ibeh, No. 44

6-10, 250, so. center

Much like Ridley, Ibeh alters or blocks shots regularly. The backup center has turned away 39 of his opponents' shots and grabs 3.5 rebounds a game in just 13.6 minutes.

He's averaging 2.1 blocks in the Longhorns' last 14 games, has blocked at least three shots on four different occasions this year and adds 5.0 points.

Reply 3 comments from Carnahan Robert  Brock Dirk Medema