December 19, 2014

(AP) - Texas is rolling and making a splash among the nation's best just two seasons after it had seemed to hit bottom.

The No. 9 Longhorns, who host Long Beach State on Saturday night, have been ranked in the top 10 for each game this season - something that didn't seem attainable in 2013 when fans were calling for coach Rick Barnes to be fired after his first losing season in 15 years.

There is no guarantee the Longhorns (9-1) can maintain their success. Just look at the 2009-2010 season.

Texas started 17-0 and rose as high as No. 1 for the first time ever. But the Longhorns were unranked by March and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The squad now looks rebuilt for the long run, thanks to recruiting that landed big-time players and found a few gems others had overlooked.

The Longhorns have five returning starters and the addition of highly touted freshman forward Myles Turner, who had 26 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in Tuesday night's 106-61 win against Lipscomb.

Turner is arguably Texas' biggest recruit since Kevin Durant, but even he has to fight for playing time. He has yet to start a game despite averaging a team-best 12.5 points.

''I have high expectations for myself, and I've lived up to a couple of them,'' Turner said. ''But not all of them.''

The only blemish for Texas so far has been a 63-51 loss at No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 5, and that result could have been different if guard Isaiah Taylor played.

Taylor, who was one of the big surprises in the Big 12 last season when he scored 12.7 points per game as a freshman, has been sidelined for nearly a month with a broken left wrist. He averaged 15.0 points and shot 53.3 percent in the first three games.

The Longhorns shaped up their game Tuesday after Barnes criticized them for the way they played in their previous two contests. They committed 22 turnovers at Kentucky and 19 in a 59-27 win against Texas State last Saturday.

Texas led Lipscomb 58-32 at halftime, set a school record for blocks in a half with 10 and turned the ball over a season-low nine times.

"He emphasized not playing scared to make a mistake, because we were scared that if we make a mistake, we make turnovers,'' guard Demarcus Holland said. ''We don't like to be called scared. This program is built on toughness. We wanted to prove him wrong.''

Long Beach State (5-6) comes to Austin after blowing an opportunity against another Top 25 team in its last game.

The 49ers visited then-No. 18 San Diego State on Dec. 10 and held an eight-point lead with 8 1/2 minutes left before the Aztecs took control and pulled out a 60-59 win. Travis Hammonds' desperation shot from midcourt bounced off the front of the rim as time expired.

It was the second of six straight road games for the 49ers, who also visit No. 20 St. John's, Syracuse and fourth-ranked Louisville this month.

''I thought we played well enough in stretches but not well enough down the stretch,'' coach Dan Monson said. ''We fell in love with the offensive end and this is a game you have to win with your defense. They got too many offensive rebounds and too many good looks in the last five to six minutes.''

Texas took a 4-3 lead in this series with a 107-74 home win Dec. 7, 2009.

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