Longhorns focus on feeding big men

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When junior center Cam Ridley has scored in double-digits in Big 12 play, the Longhorns were 3-0. But in each of the four losses, Ridley has scored fewer than 10 points, and Texas has taken more outside shots.
Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Fresh off their second consecutive loss and fourth defeat of conference play, the Longhorns enter Saturday’s road game against No. 20 Baylor desperate for a win.

If they fail to leave Waco with a victory, the team’s already remote chance of earning a regular season Big 12 title will likely be over.

In the past two seasons, the winner of the Big 12 finished conference play with only four losses. And in each of the seven years before that, the conference champion finished with fewer defeats than that. Texas already sits at 3–4 in conference play with little room to add to the loss column.

Not losing again is far easier said than done. Texas has struggled to take advantage of its size against No. 9 Kansas and No. 15 Iowa State. The team frequently settled for outside jumpers instead of getting the ball down low.

Even though the Longhorns finally found their 3-point stroke late in their loss to the Cyclones on Monday, they realize their real strength is an edge in size.

“We know that we are an inside-out team,” sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor said. “We have a lot of size in the inside. We have plays where we get it to our bigs.”

Baylor presents a different challenge in its above-average size for a Big 12 team, especially in junior forward Rico Gathers, who leads the team with 11.9 rebounds per game.

Although Baylor rivals the Longhorns, Texas still has the size edge with 6-foot-9 senior center Cam Ridley and 6-foot-11 freshman forward Myles Turner. Texas must feature these big men as much as possible, taking advantage of their size.

The Longhorns have also struggled in recent games on defense. Their 2-3 zone has been exposed, as the guards on both Kansas and Iowa State had little trouble getting past Texas’ perimeter defenders.

Baylor also boasts a talented squad of perimeter players, including junior forward Taurean Prince, who leads the Bears with 12.2 points per game. Senior guard Kenny Chery also averages 11.0 points per game and rarely leaves the floor. 

While Texas tries to make these adjustments, head coach Rick Barnes said the team needs to make changes quickly to keep any hope of a Big 12 title alive.

“I think there is a sense of urgency every game,” Barnes said after the Kansas loss. “There is a long way to go. … I do believe that we could win every game we play. I think we could go on a run and do it, but we aren’t going to do that until we understand what goes into it.”