Hoops: Horns Face Final Non-Conference Test

Having squared off against two of the nation's top five teams already this season, Texas' streak of tough battles continues when the No. 8 Longhorns host No. 3 Villanova at noon Saturday.

Despite an impressive 11-1 record, the Wildcats have looked far from flawless. After losing to West Virginia over the weekend, Villanova had to go to overtime to top Rutgers.

On the other hand, Texas enters the contest with the momentum of a five-game winning streak, including a victory over No. 4 Memphis last week. Texas’ defeat of the Tigers marked the highest-ranked foe the Horns have defeated on the road game in school history, and the margin of victory for Texas in each of the last five contests reached double digits.

"Our guys showed a tremendous will to win," said coach Rick Barnes. "We had some tough times, but we kept believing, and our guys never doubted they were a good basketball team."

Saturday’s match-up is Texas’ fifth contest against a ranked opponent this season, but for the first time this year, the Horns hold the home court advantage. Texas has won its last four games against Top 10 opponents when playing at the Erwin Center.

Playing away from home does not bother the Wildcats, though. Villanova is a perfect 5-0 on the road this season and is 12-3 in away games since the start of 2004.

Villanova features an unusual lineup with four guards manning the starting roster, which can create mismatches vs. opposing defenses. Texas lost the last time it faced such a small squad, when the Horns fell victim to Tennessee last month.

"Their guys are quick," said Barnes. "If you don’t handle the ball well, they do a tremendous job of taking it away and capitalizing on it."

While Texas must find a way to limit the four perimeter players, those same Villanova starters must find a way to chop down Texas’ size advantage.

"People ask how we are going to match up with their guards," said G Daniel Gibson, "but we ask how are they going to guard us."

The size disparity only concerns Barnes on one side of the court.

"Our big guys will have to guard their smaller players, so it’s a matter of defense," said Barnes. "I’m not worried about us offensively."

G Randy Foye, and his team-best 21.3 points and 5.4 rebounds a game, leads the charge for Villanova. Foye is often assigned the task of guarding forwards with a size advantage over him, but the senior is equally effective offensively. Foye comes into the contest with a .481 field goal percentage and a .423 three-point percentage while serving as the team’s main weapon.

G Allan Ray is the team’s other sharpshooter. Ray averages 19.7 ppg and has connected on a team-high 43 shots from behind the arc this season.

Texas players plan to adapt to the four guard attack but insist responding to Villanova’s lineup does not require too many alterations.

"We are going to play the way we have been," said Gibson. "We won’t change anything to begin with."

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