Teams on five-game winning streaks don’t normally want a break in the action, but Texas coach Rick Barnes probably doesn’t mind having a few extra days to prepare for his next opponent.
The Longhorns (16-4, 5-2 Big 12) moved into The Associated Press poll at No. 25 Monday for the first time since 2011. They host No. 6 Kansas (15-4, 6-0) at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Erwin Center.
The matchup pits the two hottest teams in the Big 12. Texas has won five straight since losing its first two league games. The Jayhawks are on a six-game win streak and are the first Div. I team to beat four ranked opponents in a row since North Carolina in 1996-97. KU hosts No. 16 Iowa State (15-3, 3-3) on Wednesday before traveling to Texas.
“I think we’d like to get into a routine and stay there but that’s how the schedule worked out,” Barnes said. “We can certainly use some time but we have to get our guys rested here and get our guys back in to school. We just have to figure out the best way to use it for our guys.”
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Since losing to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to start league play, Texas has beaten ranked opponents Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor.
“From the beginning of the year, we really haven’t worried about what people from the outside have said,” Jonathan Holmes said after Saturday’s 14-point win at Baylor.
“I don’t think that’s going to change now. If we’re in the Top 25, that’s fine. If we’re not, that’s fine. We’re going to go at Kansas like we’ve gone in every game this year. We’re playing a real good Kansas team so we have to get rest and get ready to play them.”
Barnes said Texas is playing better defense since putting its first two opponents at the line a combined 77 times.
“Over the last couple games we’ve had some really good moments but we can get better,” he said. “I know we’re going to have to get a lot better. The chemistry has been good. They want to win. They like each other. They do know we still have a lot to work and it’s been fun coaching them. I don’t think the mindset has changed since we started the season.”
Baylor not bailing
Baylor coach Scott Drew says his team is pressing after the Bears’ fourth consecutive loss dropped them from the rankings.
The Bears (13-6, 1-5) host West Virginia (11-9, 3-4) at 6 p.m. Tuesday looking to shake the streak, which included a 14-point loss at home to Texas.
“Everybody wanted to win and tried to take it on their shoulders rather than making the pass and helping their teammate be able to get a better look,” Drew said.
“I think we’re trying to focus on trusting our teammates and helping our teammates. This group gets along. They like one another and listen to one another. You’re always going to have adversity at some point.”
Baylor was riding high earlier this season and was ranked in the top 10 after beating Kentucky and entering league play with a 12-1 record.
“Unfortunately for us the Big 12 is a very good conference and every team is well-coached and has a lot of talent and try to make it hard for you to make the extra pass and do what you want on the offensive end,” Drew said.
“That’s when you have to get back to fundamentals. I think every coach knows there’s a psychologist in us all and at some point we’re trying to push whatever buttons we can to bring out the best in the team.”
Baylor hasn’t exactly played poorly during this rough stretch. The Bears played well in a loss at No. 6 Kansas last week and lost by two at home to No. 23 Oklahoma. Their other two losses were at No. 16 Iowa State and at Texas Tech.
“Every team you play is a good team. You can play well and lose. The margin for error for us and most teams this year in the Big 12 is smaller,” Drew said.
“When you’re winning and you’ve got swag and you’ve got confidence and the ball is going in the hole it’s easier to play defense. It’s easier said than done. Winning helps with confidence. It’s hard to get wins when you’re playing good competition and good teams.”
Mistakes too much for Tech
In the Big 12 this season, you pay for mistakes, Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said. Tech has lost two in a row since winning back-to-back league games for the first time since 2011. The Red Raiders (10-10, 2-5) play at Kansas State (14-6, 4-3) Tuesday night.
“In this league you can’t make any mistakes,” Smith said. “You make a mistake, you get burned. That’s something that’s a challenge for us right now because we’re making a lot of defensive mistakes and offensive mistakes.
“You better come with your best game, you better come with your best effort or you’re going to get beat every night.”
Big 12 tourney tickets
Tickets to the Big 12 tournament, March 12-15 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., go on sale at 10 a.m. Feb. 7 online at SprintCenter.com.