The Texas Longhorns have lost five of their last seven games on the hardwood, but players and head coach Rick Barnes insist that nobody is panicking and that there won't be wholesale changes to the system. However, Barnes is making a change in the lineup based on recent play.
Rick Barnes-coached teams have always worked best when there's a quality, ball distributing point guard who can drive to the hoop and take over a game when he needs to.
J'Covan Brown believes it's his time to be that guy.
“I've watched film of T.J. (Ford) and D.J. (Augustin). I saw how they ran the team,” said Brown. “I texted Coach (Barnes) yesterday and said 'I'm ready to be that guy.'”
Barnes has apparently listened. The Longhorn coach confirmed that Brown will move into the starting lineup for Saturday's game against Nebraska. Barnes noted that Brown's recent diligent approach in practice and the reduced number of turnovers was the reason for the move.
“The only thing you have to look at in a loss is assist to turnover,” said Barnes. “That's all you have to look at and it tells you everything you need to know.”
This particular statistic certainly stands out in the Longhorns' most recent loss. Kansas beat Texas last Monday, 80-68, and during the home loss the Horns turned the ball over 17 times and had just six assists.
Brown did his part putting points on the board, scoring 28 in the game, but he had just one assist and two turnovers. That's something Brown feels is about to change, though.
“I started all this turnover stuff with me always trying to make the spectacular play instead of the easy play,” Brown told Inside Texas. “My teammates see that and think, 'Well if he can do that, I can do that.' So I need to take care of the ball better and try to get more assists than turnovers.”
He leads the team with 54 turnovers. He's got 52 assists to go with it and though that's a lower number, the gap was much larger earlier in the season.
Because of this Brown will get the start and, theoretically, more minutes. That would mean fewer minutes for point guard Dogus Balbay, but if you're seeing less of Dogus Balbay you're probably seeing more of Justin Mason. Barnes insisted that he doesn't want to lose any toughness or defensive edge, which means Mason could see more playing time.
“Dogus Balbay and Justin Mason exemplify what this program has been built on and those guys are an important part of this team,” said Barnes. “We feel we've got to have one of them on the floor at all times because of their toughness and what they bring to us.”
Regardless of how the minutes shape out, these adjustments to the lineup and rotation will have little affect on system. Barnes isn't making changes to the offense or the defense and is focusing on getting his team to play better fundamental basketball.
“We believe in what we do. We believe in our system. We won 19 games with it. We've just got to do it better,” said Barnes.
With only seven regular season games left there's not a lot of time in which to start doing it better, but Barnes believes the ship will get righted in time for the tourney.
“We're going through a tough time, but I still believe that we can be the team we've set out to become and we've got time to do that,” said Barnes.
Along with that, though they've lost several games, the players' confidence hasn't been shaken and their eyes are still on the prize.
“We're down, we're losing games, but our confidence is still the same. We think we're going to win a national championship,” said Brown.
Texas and Nebraska tipoff at 3 p.m. at the Erwin Center Saturday.
ALSO SEE: Coaches Corner: Nebraska Preview - Coach Matt Cumro, former Longhorn grad assistant and moderator of the Inside Texas Basketball Coaches Corner Forum, gives his in-depth preview of Saturday's Texas-Nebraska game in Austin, including opposing player tendencies, strengths, weaknesses and keys to the game.