Austin, Texas Rick Barnes didn’t sound angry after his Texas Longhorns lost another close game.
He sounded resigned to accepting what he has on the court and to hoping his team is somehow good enough to take the program to the NCAA tournament for a 14th consecutive year. He didn’t mince words, saying his young team doesn’t listen to coaching, doesn’t understand game situations and hasn’t learned how to change those problems in order to win.
“I would say the biggest problem with this group has been listening,” Barnes said after Texas blew a 12-point second-half lead in a 77-72 loss to No. 13 Baylor on Monday night.
The loss was Texas’ eighth by six points or less this season and came on a night the Longhorns (17-11, 7-8 Big 12) appeared to be cruising to the sort of late-season signature win they need to impress the tourney selection committee.
Freshman guard Myck Kabongo called it a “devastating” loss. Speaking with reporters a few minutes later, Barnes avoided dramatic language in a measured breakdown of why his team can’t put find the big wins that seem ripe for the taking.
“If you ask me one word, it would be listening. And understanding situations; time, score fouls, all those type things,” Barnes said.
Trailing by three in the final seconds, Texas had a chance to shoot for a tie, but J’Covan Brown threw a wild pass that was intercepted by Baylor’s A.J. Walton. Barnes could have called timeout to set up a play but decided against it because he figured it wouldn’t have made a difference.
“I told the team, ‘I apologize, I should have called timeout,’” Barnes said. “On the other hand, I said to them, ‘I’m not sure if it would have done any good because you don’t listen.’ And if we would have drawn up one play and if they would have changed defenses or have done something different with no timeouts left, believe me, we would have been lost. So we thought in the flow of the game we would have a chance. We had a play on, we didn’t execute it.”
Barnes’ choice not to call a timeout and his postgame comments harken back to a 67-66 loss to Missouri. In that one, the Tigers switched defenses from man-to-man to zone on Texas’ final possession, a move that seemed to confuse the Longhorns players and forced Kabongo into a tough, last-second shot that barely got to the basket.