No. 5 Texas looks to rebound from its second loss in three games when squares off against reeling Kentucky on Saturday in a Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup in Lexington, Kentucky.
But to do so, the Longhorns will need to call on all their considerable depth as Texas is dealing with limited player availability because of COVID-19 protocols.
Texas was without two starters - guard Courtney Ramey and forward Jericho Sims - and key reserve Brock Cunningham (who missed his second straight game), as well as coach Shaka Smart, in its 80-79 home loss to No. 24 Oklahoma on Tuesday. All were out due to coronavirus protocols.
Kai Jones paced Texas (11-3) with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Greg Brown III scored 14, Andrew Jones and Matt Coleman III tallied 13 points each, and Donovan Williams added a season-high 11 for the Longhorns, who had three players foul out in the loss while falling to 5-2 in Big 12 play.
Oklahoma had 34 free throw attempts compared to Texas' 19 in Tuesday's game, which ended with the Longhorns having just five available players.
"We've got a lot of things we need to work on," Texas associate head coach K.T. Turner, who stood in for Smart, said after the game. "We're going to break the film down, and there's a lot of value in it."
The Longhorns' three losses this season are all to ranked teams and are by a combined seven points.
If Smart can't make the trip, Turner will again call the shots against Kentucky. "Right now, we're just taking it one day at a time," Turner said after Tuesday's game. "There's a lot of protocol that goes with that. One day at a time right now.
"I really just try to manage Coach Smart's things that he's instilled in us," Turner added. "I've just tried to get the guys to practice hard."
Kentucky (5-10) has lost at home to Richmond, Notre Dame, and to No. 9 Alabama. The Wildcats head home after a 70-59 loss at Alabama on Tuesday that capped the Crimson Tide's first season-sweep of Kentucky since 1989.
Three Wildcats -- Davion Mintz, Olivier Sarr and Dontaie Allen -- scored 12 points apiece in the loss to Alabama as Kentucky shot just 35.2 percent from the floor. The Wildcats were within two points, at 54-52, with 4:37 to play but then went scoreless for nearly four minutes while surrendering a 10-0 run en route to falling to 4-4 in SEC play.
"The last three minutes, dudes backed away," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "Playing - you ready? - not to lose vs. playing to win. We had our chances. We, again, got out-toughed. Just makes me sick."
Defensively, the Wildcats can play with anyone. In the second half on Tuesday, Kentucky held Alabama without a field goal for more than 10 minutes to start the half and six total baskets after halftime.
"We did our thing that we were trying to do defensively," Calipari said. "We're just not ready to finish a game off. We're inexperienced, we don't have the physical toughness, the mental toughness to make shots. My belief is that we're going to break through."
The SEC is trying to win the event for only the second time in its eighth edition. The Big 12 holds a 40-30 edge through seven challenges.
-- Field Level Media