Texas Drops Third Straight

AP Photo/Harry Cabluck

The #16 Texas Longhorns dropped a third straight game for the first time since the 2004-05 season on Saturday afternoon in Lincoln 58-55. The Nebraska Cornhuskers become the latest Big 12 North team to take out the plummeting Longhorns.

The #16 Texas Longhorns don't have any answers right now. On Saturday, Texas grabbed a 29-22 halftime lead with a 19-4 run to close the first half before faltering late due to continued stagnant offense and the continued decision to live and die with perimeter jump shots even against a smallish Cornhuskers team.

The loss by Texas (15-7, 4-4) was the third straight game with 15 or more turnovers as Texas struggled early with ball pressure. The only offensive success the Longhorns enjoyed was the run to end the first half when Dogus Balbay attacked off the dribble, Texas released shots inside of 15 feet and the Longhorns pounded the offensive glass.

The Cornhuskers (15-7, 5-4) took control of the game late as the improved Big 12 North team received two huge three-pointers in the closing three minutes from guards Sek Henry and Ade Dagunduro.

Texas took a 50-48 lead with 2:57 remaining on a Gary Johnson two-handed follow up dunk off of an A.J. Abrams misfire. The Cornhuskers got the first of the two back-breaking three pointers with 2:25 to play when guard Sek Henry beat the shot clock with a 26-footer to give the Doc Saddler coached team a 51-50 lead.

Johnson answered for Texas on the next possession with a 16-foot jumper to give the Longhorns a 52-51 lead with 2:07 to play.

Nebraska redshirt freshman wing Toney McCray had the answer with a mid-range jumper with 1:43 to play to put the Cornhuskers back on top 53-52.

After a missed Abrams 18-foot jumper, Nebraska's Ade Dagunduro played the role of hero in front of the home crowd connecting on a one hard dribble, pull up 21-footer on the left wing for a 56-52 lead and 51 ticks remaining.

Abrams then answered with the three-pointer at the top of the key off of a set play after a timeout to cut the lead to 56-55.

After a Dagunduro free throw put Nebraska up 57-55, the Longhorns chose to go to Abrams and he dribbled 20 seconds off the clock before firing a tough long range jumper that clanked off the rim. The Longhorns never appeared to look inside or have any desire to use their size advantage and offensive rebounding advantage to try and tie the game the high percentage way.

After Henry hit just one of two for a 58-55 lead, the Longhorns again looked like a team without a plan in the closing minute of a game firing a three as time expired.

Nebraska students rushed the court and the Cornhuskers had handed free falling Texas their third straight loss for the first time since the 2004-05 season that was injury and academic plagued.

Dagunduro lead the Cornhuskers with 17 points and nine rebounds. The senior was the lone Nebraska player in double figures.

Abrams led Texas with 16 points. The senior guard was joined in double figures by Damion James, 13 points and 12 rebounds and Gary Johnson with 12.

A Look at the Numbers

The Longhorns shot 38.8% (19-49) overall, 35.0% (7-20) from three and 71.4% (10-14) from the free throw line.

The Cornhuskers converted 38.0% (19-50) from the floor, 50.0% (7-14) from the three-point line and 68.4% (13-19) from the foul line.

The Longhorns won the battle of the boards 34-30, but lost the turnover battle 16-10.

The Good

There really wasn't anything positive to speak of other than a pretty good defensive effort against a vertically challenged, but disciplined team.

The Bad

Texas is as bad of an offensive team at this point as one will see with a 15-7 record having been ranked all season.

Connor Atchley hits his first three-pointer early in the second half in what seems like two months and Texas doesn't work to get him another shot and look to build confidence.

The last few minutes of the first half Dogus Balbay is attacking off the dribble and creating shots for others either by passing after causing the defense to rotate or putting up a shot and allowing Damion James and others to hit the offensive glass, which is currently Texas' best offense. In the second half, Balbay's elite level quickness was relegated to dribbling 15 times without a purpose and waiting for Abrams or James to get open off of a screen and fire up a fade away 15 to 20 foot jumper.

Texas is playing their best offensive basketball when James plays at the PF, four spot, fourth perimeter position or the position he played last year. That was especially the case today against a small Nebraska team. Instead, James fired from the perimeter in the second half coming off of screens. That is a win for every Texas opponent this year as James isn't in a position to clean up and play to his strengths on the offensive glass.

Throw in the likelihood that James could have posted and got off a 10-12 footer over a shorter defender leaving the backside open as Nebraska likes to trap on the post catch and it's even more of a head scratcher.

The last minute of the game was as bad as it gets. Abrams left to dribble for 20 seconds before putting up a very difficult shot from 19 feet while Texas has a height advantage at every position and Nebraska was doing everything they could to push Abrams out and make him dribble time off of the clock. Instead of working to get Gary Johnson the 16-footer that has been there the entire game and thus allowing James to attack the offensive glass, Texas chooses to fire a very low percentage shot.

The Texas big men, James included, turned the ball over a combined 12 times on Saturday. While their numbers look bad in the box score, Nebraska did a good job of trapping on the catch likely knowing Texas wouldn't send consistent cutters to make them pay.

The Longhorns grabbed only three second half offensive rebounds, but it was self inflicted as Texas was content to dribble 30 feet from the basket until Abrams or James popped open on the wing and fired a jump shot. While Nebraska packed it in, Texas played into their hands. It's very tough to be solely perimeter jump shot dependent and especially in the closing minutes of games.

Multiple players are scared to take an open jump shot at this point. Those players are often times pulled for taking a jump shot that isn't desired, but is wide open. Not sure how a player can ever gain confidence and keep confidence if they have to hesitate and think before a wide-open jumper goes up.

Give Nebraska credit as well. Nebraska pressured and fell back into a sagging man to man for the most part. On offense, they were patient and used the clock and tempo of the game to their advantage. Texas never attempted to speed the game up at all costs and was content to dribble the shot clock out in the second half and fire perimeter jump shots.

Overall

Texas is now a team hoping for a win and needing to go 5-3 in the last half of Big 12 play to make the NCAA Tournament. If Texas doesn't sweep next week's games against Oklahoma State at home and at Colorado, a 9-7 finish isn't likely with a tough six-game stretch to end the regular season.

The Big 12 is weak this year and 8-8 won't likely get it done with a uber talented Big East and strong ACC. Should Texas finish 8-8 in conference play, that means 10-10 in the last twenty games of the season and not likely to get one in the tournament in a down conference.

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