AUSTIN, Texas – Texas can’t start and never finishes.
That’s not a desirable combination when it comes to basketball. Texas, with another close loss to Baylor, is now 3-5 in the Big 12. Those five losses have all been by two possessions or less.
More difficult to swallow is that in those losses, Texas has averaged just 32 points in the first 20 minutes and trailed by an average of 9.4 points at half of each game.
It only gets worse when looking at how Texas has played itself back into games in the second half only to lose.
Against Kansas, Texas led 64-60 with 3:21 left before being outscored 9-2 to end the game.
At Baylor, Texas rallied to tie the game at 66 with 2:53 left and was outscored 10-5 down the stretch.
Even in a win against Iowa State, Texas led by 18 with 13:38 to go before the Cyclones rallied to within three, 58-55 with 25 seconds left.
The reasons for the bad starts and flat finishes are easy enough to pinpoint -- freshman point guard Myck Kabongo can’t get the team running early, and down the stretch, junior J'Covan Brown is the only real threat to score so the defense keys on him and the Texas offense watches it happen.
Whether or not Texas coach Rick Barnes can change those trends is another question. Barnes does not have the personnel, at least personnel that is mature enough, to counteract the problems when they begin.
This is why so often early in games Barnes pulls Kabongo. He is trying to remind his point guard of what he needs to do on the floor because at this stage of his career Kabongo is not an intuitive enough player to figure it out on his own.
Until Kabongo can read a defense on his own as well as have the trust of his teammates, Barnes will have to continue to pull him out early and coach him. The result of that is Texas will continue to start slowly.
As for finishing better, against the teams with more talent -- Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Kansas State -- it probably won’t happen. Those teams are more veteran squads with players who know how to impose their will on a game. They also have multiple options down the stretch, forcing a defense to stay honest. Texas doesn’t have either luxury.