Hoops: Texas Looking to Right the Ship Against Wisconsin

Texas opened last season with 11 straight wins before consecutive losses took the shine off its strong start. After a disappointing outing in their last game, the Longhorns are again in danger of back-to-back letdowns against the same two teams.
The ninth-ranked Longhorns look to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time in almost exactly a year and avenge last season’s last-second loss to Wisconsin when the teams meet at the Kohl Center on Tuesday night.

Texas was 11-0 and ranked fourth last season before falling 78-72 to then-No. 9 Michigan State on Dec. 22. One week later, the Longhorns couldn’t rebound against Wisconsin, falling 67-66 at home.

Texas took a two-point lead with 12 seconds left before Wisconsin guard Michael Flowers put his team on top by swishing a long 3-pointer with two seconds remaining. Flowers then stole the Longhorns’ inbounds pass and threw the ball high into the air to seal the dramatic victory for the unranked Badgers.

This season’s Longhorns (9-2) are in a similar spot entering this game, having lost 67-63 to then-No. 19 Michigan State on Saturday. A.J. Abrams, second in the Big 12 with 19.7 points per game, was held to a season-low eight points and shot 3-for-10 from the field.

“Every time I did catch the ball, if I did catch the ball, I was kind of out of position,” said Abrams, who was held without a 3-pointer for the first time in 17 games dating to last season. “They just did a good job on me. Looking back on it, if I could do something different, I might kind of slow down a little bit.”

Abrams hopes to bounce back against a Wisconsin team that’s matched Texas’ strong start. Like the Longhorns, the Badgers (9-2) have suffered their only two losses of the season to ranked teams.

While Texas also has two wins over Top 25 opponents, Wisconsin has beaten only one team from a major conference, a 74-72 victory over unranked Virginia Tech on Dec. 1. The Badgers are apparently still adjusting to the offseason losses of Flowers and Brian Butch, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder from 2007-08.

They missed 16 of their 21 3-point attempts and took only two free throws Saturday night, when they pulled out a surprisingly close 57-46 win over Coppin State.

“I liked the way we stuck our noses down and ground it out,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.

Though it was an underwhelming performance overall, forward Jon Leuer had another big game off the bench, scoring 16 points and grabbing six rebounds while shooting 8-for-12 from the field in 21 minutes. The sophomore is averaging 11.4 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting 54.3 percent over his last five games.

Wisconsin has won four of five all-time meetings with Texas.

Badgers senior forward Marcus Landry, the team’s leading scorer with 12.5 points per game, had 14 against Texas last season.

Damion James led the Longhorns with 21 points and 15 boards in that contest, and is averaging 14.1 points and 8.0 rebounds in 2008-09.