- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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STORRS, Conn. -- Texas’ mid-season slump that began with a late win over Texas A&M and has culminated with consecutive losses at Kansas State and Connecticut may force coach Rick Barnes to do something he didn’t anticipate weeks ago: cut down the rotation.
Texas played 12 players in the 88-74 loss to Connecticut as he searched for the right combination.
“I might have to,’’ Barnes said of trimming the rotation down. “A lot of guys got a chance but I’m going to have to think long and hard if guys aren’t doing it.’’
Clint Chapman, Matt Hill, Alexis Wangmene all played under 10 minutes and produced four boards and two points. Clearly, Barnes will go with Jai Lucas as a backup to Balbay and Johnson and Hamilton have to play because of their talent and productivity. But J’Covan Brown was 0-for-5 shooting including 0-for-3 on 3s and offered little in 12 minutes off the bench.
Texas’ depth has been a selling point for this squad but it’s starting to seem like the rotation is getting unwieldy for a team that needs to focus a bit more when pressured and pushed.
Barnes said he was searching for the right combinations. But he also said Avery Bradley can’t play 36 minutes a game (he played 29). He said Bradley told him he was as tired as he’s ever been after the Kansas State game Monday. He said he has to maximize minutes for James, too, who can’t get worked too long. Of course Pittman has to give the Longhorns more than 15 minutes for Texas to be a title contender.
For Texas to be a title team the Longhorns may have to lock in on a rotation of James, Pittman, Bradley, Balbay, Justin Mason, Johnson, Hamilton, a bit of Lucas and maybe some Brown. But the latter may have to play in spots.
“We’ll be fine if we stay with the right attitude and they want to listen,’’ Barnes said.
What upset him more than anything was the Longhorns’ lack of offensive execution and their inability to defend on the transition. Barnes said he didn’t think the Longhorns’ poise was an issue but rather execution.
“We can guard better than that,’’ Barnes said. “We’ve been great defensively for the most part this year.’’
Texas won’t catch a break at home with Oklahoma State coming off a road win at Kansas State and then Baylor, which nearly clipped Kansas on the road.
“We’ll get back on a roll,’’ James said. “I know this team. Maybe we needed to get back down to reality. We’ll bounce back. I promise you.’’