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Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Updated: January 29, 12:02 PM ET
Longhorns' James: 'We'll bounce back'

By Jeff Caplan
ESPNDallas.com

Texas Tech coach Pat Knight, in explaining his team's three-game skid to start Big 12 play, said last week that every team with the exception of the top one or two is going to be humbled at some point.

"If you're not Kansas or Texas," Knight said, "you're going to go through some bad weeks."

This week, Knight slightly revised his thoughts while talking about his team's recovery efforts in seizing two big wins.

"If you're not Kansas," Knight said, "you're going to have some bad weeks."

Yes, Texas had a bad week all right. After the offense betrayed the Longhorns at Kansas State and the defense opened a freeway to the rim for Connecticut, No. 1 is now No. 6.

Rick Barnes
Rick Barnes said the Longhorns can learn from their back-to-back losses. "I know we're a long way from being the team we can be," he said. ... I'm not in a panic or anything like that. It is what it is, and I just know we've got room for improvement."
"They're hungrier than ever," said emerging Baylor big man Ekpe Udoh, who brings his Bears to Austin on Saturday.

However, it's the Red Raiders (14-5, 2-3 Big 12) who will be first to face the smarting Longhorns at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Erwin Center.

Texas (17-2, 3-1) relinquished its first-ever No. 1 ranking after two weeks. It's probably not an enviable position for Tech, a team that's won just twice on the road and not since Dec. 8 at TCU. Texas is 11-0 at home.

"We feel like we're one of the best teams and we took two losses. It's tough, and I'd be lying if I said it ain't," Texas senior forward Damion James said after Saturday's 88-74 loss at UConn. "We'll get back on the road. I know me and I know this team, and we'll get things back going. Maybe that's what it takes to bring us back down to reality and continue to work harder. We'll bounce back. I promise."

Still, Texas can't simply talk a good game. No. 1 or not, they're targeted. After pulling out two tight games prior to the consecutive losses, the Longhorns have shown vulnerabilities. At Kansas State, the team lost its cool when things turned south.

"I don't think I did a good enough job talking about how when you become the No. 1-ranked team in the country how you're going to be under attack," Texas coach Rick Barnes said.

And with a chance to bury Connecticut, sloppiness allowed the Huskies to get out and run and they never stopped. Texas led 42-34 at halftime. Dogus Balbay made a quick steal to start the second half and freshman guard Avery Bradley went in for the slam for a 44-34 lead, Texas' biggest of the game.

"But in a matter of 20 seconds," Barnes said, "we did things that you can't do."

The Longhorns gave up a layup. James lost the ball to UConn's Jerome Dyson that led to a three-point play. Jai Lucas then coughed it up leading to a Dyson dunk. All of a sudden, Texas' lead was down to 44-41 and the XL Center was going nuts.

From that point, Texas was outscored 47-30.

"The biggest thing is they've got to look at what goes into losing. Everybody talks about winning," Barnes said. "I think sometimes before you talk about winning, you better understand what goes into losing. We had a 10-point lead and we had UConn in a position where we could have really stretched that out -- back-to-back turnovers and things like that, you allow the momentum to shift. Those are the things that go into losing that you have to understand that they can't happen."

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker had 19 points and 10 assists for UConn in the Huskies' win over Texas.
The Longhorns have other issues as well. Awful free throw shooting is one, but a larger focus has to be how to get center Dexter Pittman involved in the offense. In the past five games, he's averaged 5.0 points on less than four shot attempts and 4.0 rebounds.

In three of the games, he's played 16 minutes or less and he's had two or fewer rebounds in three of the five games. In his low-minute games, he fouled out against UConn and had four fouls in the other two games.

The 6-foot-10, 290-pound Pittman forces defenses to sag, which creates space for Texas' guards to operate. Defensively, his wide body clogs the driving lanes.

"What that tells me is we're going to have to coach them better and we're going to have to work harder. I know we're a long way from being the team that we can be," Barnes said. "We'll work with them, make some adjustments, but I'm not in a panic or anything like that. It is what it is, and I just know we've got room for improvement and we've got to find a way to do that."

Knight's Red Raiders will be the first team Texas hopes to get off to a bad week.

Jeff Caplan covers colleges for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.