Longhorns have no room for error through final seven Big 12 games

Dalton Phillips

Wednesday’s contest with Kansas State marked one of the few favorable remaining conference games on the Longhorns’ schedule. A home game against a skidding Wildcat program offered a chance to build momentum heading into rematches with TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma — two of which will be looking for revenge after Texas’ round of home upsets.

Instead, the Longhorns dropped the contest in deflating fashion. The nonplussed roster could only point to issues of energy and defensive effort as they fell to 5–6 in conference play.

Head coach Shaka Smart ripped his team’s urgency after the loss. The fight Texas showed just four days earlier against Oklahoma was nowhere to be found as the team surrendered a second-half lead in the 67-64 defeat.

“You have to fly around and have an aggressiveness about you,” Smart said. “And an urgency about you. And one of the things that is most disappointing on the defensive end is we didn’t go and impose our will, particularly on the guys who we knew were going to be really important in this game. And that is on us. It is going to be a very honest and aggressive film session tomorrow.”

That film session will need to turn the page for Texas as it shifts focus to Saturday’s upcoming road rematch with TCU.

Fans will recall the first meeting between the two programs in January that resulted in an instant classic, double-overtime thriller. The final layup by TCU guard Jaylen Fisher rimmed out at the buzzer as Texas held on for the upset over the then-No. 16 Horned Frogs. That night marked the first public announcement of the Andrew Jones diagnosis, and the team fed off the energy from the stadium as it rallied for the win.

The Longhorns will need to find a way to reclaim that drive as they prepare for a team that has only lost three games at home this season.

Part of that responsibility falls to freshman point guard Matt Coleman. After scoring a career-high 22 points in the win over Oklahoma, Coleman looked lethargic on Wednesday evening. He finished with just eight points and missed all three of his shots from behind the arc.

“No matter what is going on, I know I have to be that spark, that spirit for myself and my teammates,” Coleman said. “And I’ve been inconsistent with that.”

TCU is coming off a pair of narrow losses to the Big 12’s best teams. Texas Tech and Kansas handed the Horned Frogs their first two-game skid since the overtime loss in Austin. Those setbacks, only enhanced by the memory of the two programs’ most recent matchups, will all but ensure the Longhorns see a locked-in TCU team that is hungry to get back on track.

Texas will need a near-perfect showing if it hopes to escape with a win in Fort Worth, a fact that makes the easily-winnable loss to Kansas State look all the more damaging. But Smart is confident that his team will rebound like they have all season as Texas eyes an NCAA Tournament bid.

“Anytime you lose, your urgency for winning should go through the roof,” Smart said. “Not so much about the result, but understand the things that go into winning that you didn’t do well enough. The things that caused you to lose. The things that you can control.”