Texas con­tin­ues to mis­fire in los­ing skid

Team’s shoot­ing strug­gles per­sist over rough stretch

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL -

AUSTIN, Texas —

Texas has trou­bles. A lot of them.

The Longhorns can’t shoot, are strug­gling to re­bound even against smaller teams and have lost three in a row to drop out of the Top 25 as quickly as they got in just two weeks ago.

What hap­pened to the team that looked so good in beat­ing thenNo. 7 North Carolina on Thanks­giv­ing? Coach Shaka Smart would like to know.

“Less than two weeks ago we were 5-0 and beat the No. 7 team in the coun­try with the same five guys,” Smart said after Texas lost to VCU, his for­mer team, on Wed­nes­day. “Our last 2½ games we haven’t played with the same con­fi­dence. We haven’t played with the same swag­ger. And when the games have been close, we haven’t made the big plays we need to make.”

The com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor in all three losses has been woe­ful shoot­ing.

Texas (5-3) is 308th out of 351 ma­jor col­lege teams in shoot­ing per­cent­age (40.5). It is even worse shoot­ing 3-point­ers (28.9 per­cent, 313th na­tion­ally).

“I do sense when the ball’s not go­ing in, some play­ers, their con­fi­dence goes down, start see­ing head drops,” guard Jase Fe­bres said Fri­day.

The day after beat­ing North Carolina, Texas led Michi­gan State by 19 mid­way through the first half be­fore the Spar­tans came storm­ing back. Texas shot 22 per­cent in the sec­ond half and lost by 10.

Against Rad­ford, the Longhorns went 4 of 14 over the fi­nal 10 min­utes. They led VCU 49-45 be­fore com­mit­ting eight turnovers over the next five min­utes and lost 54-53 de­spite holding VCU un­der 30 per­cent shoot­ing in the sec­ond half.

In those home losses to Rad­ford and VCU, Texas missed open 3-point­ers in the fi­nal sec­onds that would have won or tied the game. VCU play­ers cel­e­brated with “horns down” hand sig­nals on Texas’ home­court while their fans chanted “V-CU” loud enough to echo through the hall­ways in the bow­els of the arena.

No Texas player has been mis­fir­ing more than se­nior guard Ker­win Roach II.

Roach flirted with a move to the NBA after his ju­nior sea­son and his de­ci­sion to stay set him up to be Texas’ key player on both ends of the court. But after a ca­reer game with 32 points and five as­sists against North Carolina, Roach’s game and shoot­ing touch have dis­ap­peared.

He was 2 of 12 against Rad­ford, and on de­fense gave up the go-ahead layup and a foul for a 3-point play with less than 30 sec­ond left. He was 1 of 11 against VCU.

“You can call me out for some poor shots. But every night I’m here from 9:30 to 12 shoot­ing [the] ball. Even­tu­ally it will click,” Roach said after the VCU loss.

His team­mates won’t blame him.

“He’s a good player. He’s go­ing to fig­ure it out. We’re go­ing to be there with him,” guard Elija Mitrou-Long said. “No­body is go­ing to ever tell him not to do what he’s do­ing. If it wasn’t for him in the North Carolina game, we wouldn’t have won. We’re with him.”

Smart is 55-53 at Texas and un­der con­tract through 2022-23 sea­son. Ath­letic di­rec­tor Chris

Del Conte has given no hint that Smart’s job in on the line but there will be pres­sure to turn things around. Texas missed the 2017 NCAA tour­na­ment after a dis­as­trous sea­son. The Longhorns re­turned last sea­son but were bounced in the first round in over­time by Ne­vada.

Smart now has a ros­ter full of play­ers he re­cruited. At some point, Texas will start ask­ing when the Longhorns will be a Big 12 power again and why Smart has not been able to du­pli­cate his 2011 Fi­nal Four run with VCU.

Texas hosts Pur­due (6-3) on Sun­day night. In be­tween matchups with Grand Canyon and Tex­as­Ar­ling­ton, the Longhorns host Prov­i­dence be­fore start­ing Big 12 play on the road at No. 16 Kansas State.

“I’d rather us go through this right now,” Fe­bres said. “Work­ing to get a win Sun­day would help us a lot.”

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Texas guard Ker­win Roach II, who leads the team with 14.9 points a game, shot just 2 of 12 in the Longhorns’ loss to Rad­ford, and 1 of 11 in the team’s loss to VCU. Texas is shoot­ing just 40.5 per­cent as a team.

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