Hard fall from the top for Texas

Longhorns plagued by FT shooting, turnovers in slide

February 02, 2010|By Shannon Ryan On college basketball

No team has been able to cling to No. 1 very long this season. But no team has fallen harder since being ranked at the top than Texas.

The No. 9 Longhorns entered Monday's game against Oklahoma State having dropped three of their last four after starting the season 17-0.

Thud.

Or maybe it's more of a whiff.

The Longhorns might be modeling themselves after the NCAA runner-up Memphis team from two seasons ago that never could make a free throw.

Texas owns the top scoring offense in the Big 12, averaging 85.3 points, is the top rebounding team with 44.3 per game and has the third-best shooting defense, holding opponents to 38.5 percent shooting.

But it also has the conference's worst free-throw shooting (61.8 percent) and ranks 10th with 14.5 turnovers per game.

"Our offense is killing our defense," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "We've made it a lot harder because of our inefficiency on the (offensive) end."

Of course, the Longhorns aren't the only team that has hit a rough patch.

North Carolina - you remember, the defending national champion - has lost five of its last seven games. Pittsburgh started 15-2 and was ranked No. 9 but has lost three of four. Connecticut, which was ranked No. 10 at one point, beat Texas but has lost five of its last seven.

Barnes knows there is plenty of time to correct the Longhorns' errors.

"Our job right now is to continue to grow," he said. "I'd rather go through some of those things right now as opposed to later on when you don't have time to fix it."

Cautiously cruising: Michigan State looks like it's cruising to a Big Ten title with a 9-0 start and a three-game lead in the standings.

But coach Tom Izzo said about the upcoming week that he's "not sure if there's been a tougher stretch in my time."

The No. 5 Spartans' next three games are against teams tied for second in the Big Ten. They play at Wisconsin on Tuesday, at Illinois on Saturday and then come home to play Purdue on Feb. 9.

Michigan State has not faced the Boilermakers and has defeated the Illini and Badgers at home.

Swish of the week:Devan Downey, South Carolina. Downey was the perfect player to lead the underdog Gamecocks in the program's first victory over a No. 1 team.

The 5-foot-9 guard scored 33 points in an upset of Kentucky and encouraged hesitant students to storm the court when it was clear South Carolina had secured the victory.

Brick of the week: USC. It's bad enough that the Trojans are in fifth place in a lousy Pac-10. But now the team is pinning a loss to Oregon on a student manager. Coach Kevin O'Neill fired a third-year student manager who received a technical foul for making comments to officials about the fouls in the Trojans' loss Saturday.

Game of the week: Wichita State at Northern Iowa, Wednesday. The Panthers' only loss in Missouri Valley Conference play came at the noisy Wichita State arena - and it was only their second loss of the season.

Now Northern Iowa can get payback as it plays host to the Shockers.

sryan@tribune.com


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