Longhorns have no margin for error heading into Texas Tech matchup

Wills Layton

Following another inconsistent performance that saw the Longhorns give away another halftime lead, the margin of error for the Texas team has gone from slim to razor thin as they head into a crucial matchup with Texas Tech at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday. 

Losing to No. 3 Kansas on the road last week was the expected result, but the team gave fans hope after a strong first half that gave Texas a two-point lead. But all season, the team has failed to stay consistent from half to half.

“I thought that a majority of the first half, our guys did a really good job at least being even on the aggressiveness battle,” head coach Shaka Smart said following the loss to Kansas. “I thought in the second half, they (Kansas) really flipped that. They really ramped up their assertiveness, put their head down and drove the ball.”

Playing well for just one half has become a recurring theme of this season. In the 69-67 loss to LSU on Jan. 25, the Longhorns mounted a furious comeback after being down double digits at the break. But the deficit was too much to overcome. 

“You can play any defense anywhere, you can draw up any scheme, but it’s about how we play,” redshirt sophomore guard Andrew Jones after the loss to LSU. “So it’s time to split the script, play harder and more aggressive, and on the defensive end get stops so we can play the way we want to.”

The Longhorns still have a chance to turn the season around, but they are running out of time to do so. The climb back to tournament contention continues against Tech on Saturday. 

Texas Tech and Texas are both sitting at 14–8, but are coming into the matchup in much different places. Tech made the NCAA Championship Game last season, and while they have not performed up to that standard thus far this season, they are still likely to make the tournament barring a collapse.

The Red Raiders have a couple of upsets on their résumé as well, having defeated then-No.1 Louisville and then-No.12 West Virginia. Texas has lost to every ranked team it has played this season apart from an early season win over Purdue, who is now 13–10. 

The close losses will mean very little to the selection committee, so it is time for the Longhorns to start collecting victories. If Texas wants to make the tournament, they have to start by improving their consistency and winning the must-win matchup at home.

No matter how disappointing this season has been so far, there is still hope and something to fight for. If the Longhorns can fight for 40 minutes, they can give themselves a shot at saving the season.

“Disappointing, but we dug ourselves in that hole, so there’s nobody to be mad at but ourselves,” junior guard Matt Coleman said following the LSU game. “It’s a 40-minute game, so we have to do that for 40 minutes.”