Trent Johnson admitted he needed to consult the history books, but his gut reaction to a question about TCU renewing a rivalry with Texas was simple: What rivalry?
As far as Johnson’s concerned, any talk of a rivalry with the Longhorns — even one that dates to the Southwest Conference — is pointless at the moment.
“For us, before we start talking about a rivalry, we’ve got a long ways to go,” Johnson said during the Big 12 teleconference Monday morning. “Forget trying to have a rivalry with Texas; we have a long way to go just to compete with anybody. And that’s the process we’re in. When you’re building, changing leagues, it’s a process and it’s a journey and it’s not fun, but you’ve got to go through it.”
Texas, which is enduring its own “process” this season, returns to Fort Worth at 7 Tuesday night for the first time since its final meeting with TCU in the SWC on Feb. 11, 1996. The Longhorns (11-14, 3-9 Big 12) arrive at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum still looking for their first road win in the league in their seventh try. TCU (10-15, 1-11) is the league’s only other winless road team.
Texas coach Rick Barnes, who took over for Tom Penders in 1998, said expectations for a turnaround remain high because of guard Myck Kabongo’s return. The sophomore was suspended the first 23 games of the season for an NCAA violation.
Kabongo returned last week and helped Texas beat Iowa State in overtime, and on Saturday against Kansas, Kabongo led the Horns with 13 points but was 2 of 10 from the field with no assists. Texas shot a season-low 21.8 percent from the field. The only Big 12 team scoring fewer points or shooting a lower percentage than Texas is TCU.
“I don’t care what you do, at some point in time you’ve got to make some shots,” Barnes said. “If you’re not making outside shots, you’ve got to find a way to get to the foul line and find a way to get some easy baskets.”
Kabongo’s playmaking ability can trigger that, but it remains to be seen if his late inclusion is too late for Texas to make a late-season run.
“With Myck coming back, too, I think everybody thinks it’s just going to get better and better, and it will get better and better,” Barnes said. “We’ll get there because these guys — they work at it, and that’s all we can ask them to do; and that’s what we’ll keep doing. That’s what we have to do. We don’t have any other option.”
Without Kabongo, Texas handled TCU 60-43 in Austin four days before the Horned Frogs upset then-fifth-ranked Kansas. TCU then lost its next three games by an average of 24.7 points.
“He creates so many opportunities for his teammates. He makes everybody better,” Johnson said of Kabongo. “His speed and quickness — you can’t simulate that. There’s probably one or two guys in college basketball that can bring it up with the pace he can and can pass it as well as he does.”