Despite some of the turbulence surrounding the program in the last couple of months, Texas basketball is doing pretty well in the Big 12 of late. Texas and acting head coach Rodney Terry are currently ranked in the top 10 and are within striking distance of the top teams in the Big 12 standings early in conference play.
Following a tough 11-point loss on the road to the No. 12 Iowa State Cyclones at Hilton Coliseum in Ames on Jan. 17, Terry and the Longhorns are sporting a record of 15-3 (4-2 Big 12). That loss to Iowa State snapped a three-game winning streak for Texas.
But those types of losses are going to happen since Texas is playing in the deepest college hoops conference in the country. The Big 12 often cannibalizes itself in hoops, and this year looks to be no exception.
At least Texas is doing well to more than stay afloat in the Big 12 standings in the first half-dozen games of conference play. And with a winnable stretch of conference games coming up against the West Virginia Mountaineers and Oklahoma State Cowboys, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Texas could carry a two-game winning streak into the Big 12/SEC Challenge against the No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers on Jan. 28.
Which slumping Texas basketball players need to break out to find success in the Big 12?
For that to happen, though, there’s a handful of Texas players that must step up through the core part of the Big 12 slate. Here’s a look at three of those players off to disappointing starts to conference play.
Arterio Morris, G
The month of December was the best so far this season for true freshman guard and former five-star recruit Arterio Morris. The Dallas Kimball product looked like he was starting to put it together with a solid run last month that saw him average a career-best eight points per game, three rebounds, one assist, one steal, and 0.5 blocks while shooting a solid 49 percent from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc.
But Morris’ production has since slowed in January. In five games played this month, Morris is averaging just three points per game, 0.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, no steals, and no blocks while shooting 36 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc.
I definitely think the level of competition has to do something with Morris’ dip in production and efficiency in the last few weeks. The Big 12 is no joke, and Morris is facing a lot tougher defenses than he did in the backhalf of Texas’ non-conference schedule in December.
Morris is showing that he is the type of player that needs to find a good rhythm to really start cooking, especially on the offensive end. He does always bring a ton of energy on the defensive end.
Moving forward, I would like to see Terry and the Longhorns giving Morris more of an opportunity to make an impact on the backcourt in Big 12 play. Morris has proven this season that when he’s given more minutes off the bench, he’s able to find a good rhythm.
In the six games that Morris has played at least 17 minutes off the bench this season, he’s averaged around 13 points per game, one rebound, three assists, and two steals while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Given Morris’ production in the half-dozen games he’s played where he did get significant minutes off the bench, I think it makes sense for Terry to start trusting him with more playing time, especially if Texas gets a big lead in the next couple of games.