It's too late for Texas to make a push for a Big 12 regular-season championship, and now it must use the stretch run getting used to a new rotation.
With a significant loss to the backcourt adding to their recent woes, the 21st-ranked Longhorns look for back-to-back victories for the first time since mid-January on Wednesday when they host Oklahoma State.Second to Kansas in the Big 12 coaches' preseason poll, Texas (21-6, 7-5) lost any chance for a regular-season conference title by losing six of nine following its 17-0 start. The top-ranked Jayhawks, meanwhile, are undefeated in conference play and already have clinched at least a share of their sixth straight Big 12 regular-season crown.Despite a 71-67 victory at Texas Tech on Saturday, Texas suffered a major setback when starter Dogus Balbay, leading the team with 3.9 assists per game and third with 35 steals, tore his left ACL. The loss of the junior point guard could mean more playing time for freshman J'Covan Brown, who played only five minutes off the bench Saturday after starting the previous two games.Guards Avery Bradley and Justin Mason each played 38 minutes against Texas Tech, but combined to go 7 of 25 from the field.With plenty of questions in the backcourt, the Longhorns are focused on re-establishing their inside game, which keyed them climbing to No. 1 in the country a month ago."(Our post play is) what got us to a point in the season where we were undefeated," junior forward Gary Johnson said Saturday after scoring a career-high 22 points with eight rebounds. "We just got to get back to that point."Texas averaged 87.2 points on 49.4 percent shooting during its undefeated start, but is scoring 75.8 per game and hitting 43.8 percent in the last 10 games.The Longhorns, the Big 12's top rebounding team with 43.6 per game, outrebounded their opponents by an average of 9.2 in their first 17 games. That advantage has been trimmed to 4.0 per game in the last five weeks.While Texas has failed to string together consecutive victories since its 17-0 start, senior forward Damion James has been a consistent force. James, the Big 12's all-time leading rebounder with 1,260, is averaging a team-high 17.6 points and a conference-best 10.8 boards.He was limited to 14 points and six rebounds at Oklahoma State (19-7, 7-5) on Feb. 1, but freshman guard Jordan Hamilton recorded season highs with five 3-pointers and 27 points in Texas' 70-62 victory.The Longhorns won for the seventh time in eight meetings despite 28 points from James Anderson, who averages a conference-best 22.8 per game. He scored 35 in the Cowboys' last visit to Austin and their fifth consecutive loss there, 99-74 on Feb. 10, 2009.Anderson and sophomore guard Keiton Page each had five 3-pointers Saturday as Oklahoma State won its third straight, 82-75 over then-No. 22 Baylor.The Cowboys are 10th in the Big 12 in 3-point percentage (35.0), but they have made 40 of 83 during their winning streak."... We shoot a lot of 3s and if they're there, we're going to take them," Anderson said Saturday after matching a season high with 31 points.Oklahoma State missed 14 of 18 from 3-point range in the Feb. 1 loss to Texas. The Longhorns are first in the Big 12 in 3-point defense at 29.9 percent.Page is averaging 20.3 points and 3.8 3-pointers in the last four games.