Men’s basketball looks to enter Big 12 Tournament with momentum

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Sophomore Jaylen Bond tries to establish position inside against Baylor. Bond gives Texas needed energy inside. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Even with a win on Jan. 26 against Texas Tech, Texas cannot get back to a .500 record for the season. But that doesn’t mean the Longhorns (14-16, 6-11) aren’t looking to enter the Big 12 Tournament with a head of steam and a win in their final regular season game.

Any chance the Longhorns have of making the NCAA tournament rests on the conference tournament, and if they don’t win the tournament they are likely headed for the significantly less noteworthy College Basketball Invitational.

The Red Raiders (10-18, 3-14) were handed a 16-point loss in their first game against the Longhorns Jan. 26 in Austin, and after its surprising win over Baylor last week, Texas is in search of its first two-game conference win streak since February of last year. Dating back to its loss to Texas, Texas Tech has lost 10 of its last 11 conference games. 

Myck Kabongo was not on the court when the Longhorns and Red Raiders met in January, and it’s been clear that his presence means a lot for his team’s confidence. Kabongo has averaged 17 points per game since his return from a 23-game suspension and the Longhorns have won four of the seven games he has been back for.

“We are just taking things one day at a time,” Kabongo said. “You can’t look too far ahead.”

Kabongo will need help from his teammates if the Longhorns are to make a serious run at a conference tourney title — something they have not done in the 16-year existence of
the tournament.

Cameron Ridley is coming off the most complete game of his budding career, and players like Ioannis Papapetrou and Connor Lammert have shown improvement in the last few games as well. If sophomores Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis and can add a reliable scoring punch to the Texas offense, the Longhorns could catch fire and make things interesting when the Big 12 Tournament starts March 13 in Kansas City, Mo.

“You can tell we have been improving,” Kabongo said. “This is the time of year we are no longer sophomores — we are juniors. Freshmen are no longer freshmen, they are sophomores. We have been through everything and it has been a tough year. We have to build momentum and work at it every day.”

First, the Longhorns will have to take care of the Red Raiders on the road, which has been relatively easy for nearly every team in the conference. The Red Raiders have had their fair share of struggles this season and barring a huge turnaround, they don’t have the necessary tools to keep up with a team like Texas that seems to be figuring out how to win.

Published on March 8, 2013 as "Texas looks for victory over Tech in Lubbock".