Men's Basketball takes the offensive with defense
Pretty soon college basketball patrons around the country will no longer be calling Rick Barnes "coach."
Make it "Secretary of Defense."
And Barnes, who is in his 10th season at Texas, likely, would be most pleased by such a moniker.
"If you play well defensively, you always are going to have a chance," said Barnes, whose team smothered foes in February.
The last of those February foes was Kansas State in Manhattan. The Longhorns vanquished the Wildcats, 74-65, giving UT its first perfect February since John F. Kennedy was in the White House.
The Longhorns went 8-0 in February -- talk about your Groundhog Day -- for the first time since the 1962-63 season.
"We knew we had to play better defensively," said Barnes, whose team ascended to No. 5 in the nation as March began. "We've had guys making plays. We've gotten better with our rotations. We're blocking shots.
"We talk about effort -- mentally and physically. Defense is effort. We've been an unselfish team and where we really have been unselfish is defensively."
How stringent has Texas been defensively? During an eight-game winning streak -- UT's longest in a single season since the inception of the Big 12 Conference -- that began Feb. 2, the Longhorns:
· Outscored their opponents by 10.7 points per game;
So stout was Texas' defense that when D.J. Augustin suffered a mini-slump with his shooting, the Horns were unaffected.
"We've gotten better because our defense has gotten better," said Barnes, who reached the 20-victory mark for the ninth straight season -- a school record, more than doubling the previous run of consecutive 20-win seasons at UT.
While Augustin and A.J. Abrams may be in the media's spotlight, Barnes has had many players deserving curtain calls this season.
Connor Atchley, Damion James and Justin Mason all have made contributions. Gary Johnson, likewise, has been making an impact of late. He had 12 points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes against Baylor at the start of February.
For Barnes, however, it all comes back to defense.
"We put our emphasis there (on defense) and that is where it has paid off," he said.
"I'd give us an 'A'," Barnes said of his team's February performance.
"Maybe even an A-plus," he continued. "But, we've got a long way to go. Our next game is the biggest game. Remember, it's not too far from the penthouse to the outhouse."