After struggling over the final two weeks of the regular season, Texas hopes to make a fresh start in the Big 12 tournament.
The second-seeded and No. 10 Longhorns open play trying for a fourth consecutive victory over rival Oklahoma on Thursday night in a quarterfinal matchup in Kansas City, Mo.
Texas (25-6) opened 11-0 in Big 12 play, and appeared in good shape to win the league title until dropping three of its final five.
Though Kansas ultimately passed the Longhorns to win the championship, Texas hopes to use a 60-54 win over Baylor in its regular-season finale as a springboard for a successful run in Kansas City.
“We’re all here as a team and we’re going to continue to play,” said senior forward Gary Johnson, who had 15 points and eight rebounds against the Bears on Saturday.
Though Texas has never won the Big 12 tournament, it’s reached the finals five times, including three straight appearances from 2006-2008.
The Longhorns might have caught a break on their quest for that elusive title when 10th-seed Oklahoma (14-17) beat a listless Baylor team without ineligible forward Perry Jones, 84-67 on Wednesday.
Though Texas defeated Oklahoma by a combined 36 points to sweep the two-game season series, Sooners coach Jeff Capel is excited about the upcoming challenge.
“We look forward to the opportunity to play against a great team,” he said.
Sophomore Jordan Hamilton matched his season average of 18.5 points in the two games versus Oklahoma, which has won two straight following an eight-game losing streak.
While Hamilton was held to 14 points versus Baylor, Big 12 freshman of the year Tristan Thompson had 19 with 13 rebounds as the Longhorns overcame a 35.6-percent shooting effort to avoid losing three straight for the first time in 2010-11.
Thompson has averaged 19.5 points and 11.3 rebounds in the last four games. He had 15 and eight in a 66-46 home win over the Sooners on Jan. 15.
“He’s just a monster,” Baylor star LaceDarius Dunn said. “He’s an incredible player.”
Oklahoma senior guard Cade Davis had a big effort against Dunn and the Bears on Wednesday, scoring 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
Carl Blair added 14 with 11 rebounds as the Sooners shot 57.5 percent to snap a three-game tournament skid.
Oklahoma’s three Big 12 tournament titles are second to Kansas’ seven, but the Sooners had not won a game in the event since beating Colorado in the 2008 quarterfinals. The Sooners lost 77-49 to the top-seeded Longhorns in the semifinals.
Davis has been one of the league’s hottest players, averaging 21.3 points on 53.8 shooting the last six games.
“It’s just trying to do the same thing I’ve always done, and the ball seems to be going into the hole a little more,” Davis said. “(I’m) just trying to do whatever I can to help the team get another win and help us to advance.”
Davis has been unable to do much versus Texas this season, totaling 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting.