Fatigue, bad shots plaguing young Longhorns

AUSTIN, Texas -- At a time when a team, even a young one like Texas, should be hitting its stride, the Longhorns (12-5, 2-2) are hitting the wall.

And to make matters worse, the players are not hitting shots. Or even taking the right ones for that matter.

In the last three games, the Texas offense has averaged 64 points per game -- 12 below its average -- shot 33 percent in the first halves and started games glacially slow -- averaging just 13 points in the first 10 minutes of each game. The staggering thing is, twice Texas got away with such poor offensive play in large part because of how bad Texas A&M and Oklahoma State were, and because of the Texas defense.

But No. 5 Missouri, while not the best the Big 12 has to offer, certainly is in the upper echelon of the conference. And the Tigers wasted little time putting the Longhorns in their place with an 84-73 win Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

“Offensively, we just haven’t been very good, and it has cost us some games,” assistant coach Chris Ogden said. "It’s a lot of different factors. It’s not one player or no one area. It’s not all the players, some of it is [the coaches]. We got to figure out what works best for this team.”

The only thing that worked against Missouri was getting the ball to J’Covan Brown. The junior had a season-high 34 points. No other Texas player had more than 12. In fact, no other guard shot 50 percent or better.

That lack of consistent shooting from the other guards is what has Texas worried. Julien Lewis, Sheldon McClellan and Myck Kabongo are all shooting less than 45 percent on the season. In Big 12 play, their poor shooting -- a combined 29 percent -- has pushed Texas to less than 40 percent shooting as a team.

The reason for the poor result is shot selection.

“What is a good shot and when it is a good shot and when it is not,” Ogden said.

The trio of freshmen clearly has not grasped that concept yet. Instead all three have forced up ill-advised and difficult shots and bad moments in the game.

“If you take some tough shots and miss a few tough shots, that you’re probably not going to make anyway, that puts some pressure on you,” Ogden said.

Added to that is the exhaustion the players are carrying with them from the other end of the floor. Defense is where Texas has made its mark so far, and the younger players are not used to expending so much energy on that end of the floor and then having to turn around and play offense.

"Our team plays hard on defense, so when we get to offense it is like, 'What are we supposed to do now,' " McClellan said. "Even though we know what we’re supposed to do we’re so tired from playing defense."

That leads to either a lot of quick shots or an offense that does not move the ball from side to side, making the defense shift in order to create openings for drives or open looks.

“There is a lot of standing,” McClellan said.

Right now because of that standing around, Texas’ standing is slipping in the big picture. The Longhorns still project as a tournament team, but they play five games in the next 12 days. Four of those games are against ranked teams, with three of those teams -- Baylor, Missouri and Kansas -- being ranked in the Top 10.