Texas starting out quickly, focusing on strong finishes

Dan Hurwitz

Texas has had little difficulty getting off to fast starts in recent games.

Since trailing by as much as 15 points in the first half against Kansas on Jan. 22 and by 11 at halftime of that game, the Longhorns have led entering the second half by an average of 15 points in six games. In all of those contests except the win at Oklahoma State, the Longhorns had early double-digit leads — including a 25-point lead at Texas A&M.

The Longhorns have not been as dominating in the second halves, only winning the second half twice in the last six games.

“I don’t think we have been as sharp mentally in the second half,” said head coach Rick Barnes.

Texas’ struggles in the second half were shown most recently against Baylor on Saturday. The Bears cut an 18-point lead to three late in the game.

“We got to play a hard 40 minutes,” said senior guard Dogus Balbay. “We can’t just play 20, 25 minutes and then sit down and watch.”

A new No. 1?

Kansas was ranked No. 1 for less than 12 hours before getting blown out by in-state rival Kansas State on Monday night.

Barnes didn’t think Kansas should have been No. 1 in the first place.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that Pitt should be the No. 1 team,” Barnes said. “You lose your leading scorer and go in and beat two ranked teams on their court and that’s impressive.”

Pittsburgh beat both West Virginia and Villanova on the road last week without starting point guard Ashton Gibbs.

Others are calling Texas the best team in the country.

Barnes and the Longhorns continue to not worry about rankings. They are more concerned with staying focused for the remainder of the season and into the postseason.

“March is going to be big for us,” Balbay said. “So we got to stay focused. We have been doing great so far so we are just going to keep it up [and] do better.”

Texas is making sure to go through the same routine that they have been following since November.

“There are six or seven weeks left,” Barnes said. “We can’t stop improving right now.”