In the cut-throat Big 12 this season, even the best teams struggle keep win streaks alive. Around every corner, another tall task looms. It makes long win streaks hard to come by, but for the second time in less than 10 days TCU hosts the hottest team in the country.
This time it’s Texas, winners of six consecutive games, including a convincing win over Kansas Saturday in Austin. The Jayhawks entered the game as the nation’s hottest team after dismissing TCU. Now coach Rick Barnes’ Longhorns (17-4, 6-2 in the Big 12), who moved up No. 15 from 25 in the latest Associated Press Top 25, clearly carry that flag into Daniel-Meyer Coliseum at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“The thing that has impressed me, and it hasn’t surprised me at all — because I’m a big fan of coach Barnes — is how physical they are. They’re very balanced and how hard they play,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said. “They come at you in transition, they really dominate you on the glass and if you’re not going to match their intensity, or if you back down from their intensity and how hard they play, you’re going to struggle. They’ll definitely put their foot on you and try to bury you.”
TCU (9-11, 0-8) should have post Karviar Shepherd back after the freshman missed the Horned Frogs’ 60-54 loss at Texas Tech on Saturday. It was a game the Frogs had a chance to win in the final minutes, but too many turnovers doomed their chances.
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“We have to do a good job of playing in space and not get caught up trying to do things we can’t do,” Johnson said. “We got ahead of ourselves versus Texas Tech. We had a couple transition opportunities and we got cute with the ball and we had two or three ill-advised turnovers that really hurt us in a game like that.”
Playing physically aggressive is one of Texas’ strengths. The Horns lead the league with 41.8 rebounds a game. TCU is last in the league with 32 rebounds a game.
“It sort of reminds me of all of Rick’s teams in terms of their physicality and they play the game the right way,” Johnson said. “Obviously, for anybody to beat a team like Kansas, they’ve got a good group, they’ve got some talent that play well.”
Johnson said the prospect of playing top 25 opponents in the Big 12 from week to week should help keep his players engaged, despite the winless league start and a roster thinned by injuries.
“They haven’t stopped competing, they haven’t stopped playing,” he said. “A lot of people have it a lot worse off than we do. These kids are getting a great education, one of the best in the country at a private school and they’re playing, without question in my mind, in the best conference in college basketball this year. They have a responsibility to go out there and play and enjoy the process and enjoy trying to get better. It’s not all bad. It’s unfortunate some of the things have happened during the course of this year and the course of last year, but the bottom line is you still have to go out and work and to continue to play because you do have a great opportunity and we still have a great opportunity in front of us versus a very, very good Texas team.”