Iowa State Rides Stars In Win Over TexasPosted by Brian Goodman on February 19th, 2014
In the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference on Monday, Texas head coach Rick Barnes emphasized his team’s chemistry and his players’ focus on the current mission at hand (rather than looking to the next level) as the reason for the Longhorns’ improved play this season. Coming into Tuesday night’s game at Iowa State, Texas was just one game behind Kansas in the loss column in the Big 12 standings, with Barnes’ preseason hot seat having cooled significantly.
Iowa State is another team that prides itself on making its pieces fit together well rather than relying on future lottery picks. While opinions of mock drafts are certainly worth your scrutiny, it’s also worth pointing out that the first round of DraftExpress.com‘s latest mock draft doesn’t include a single player from either Texas or Iowa State. But yet, here’s where we are: Both teams are challenging for a top-three finish in the Big 12. Earlier this season, Texas knocked off four ranked teams in a row; and Iowa State trails only Kansas in top-50 RPI wins. With NCAA Tournament bids now down to a matter of formality for both teams, how could we not have been in for an entertaining battle between the Longhorns and Cyclones on Tuesday night?
Following a lethargic first few minutes, Iowa State got its offense out of neutral and took a nine-point lead into halftime. After intermission, the Longhorns made a run and tied the game at 48 apiece, but with the home crowd behind the Cyclones, Iowa State turned on the afterburners to put the game away over the final 10 minutes and leave with an 85-76 win. Here are three reasons why Texas now finds itself two games behind Kansas with five games left to play, while the Cyclones might be in contention for a protected seed.
- Iowa State’s Big Three Led The Way: The combination of Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and DeAndre Kane has been an outstanding core for Fred Hoiberg all season long, and that was especially evident last night. The trio combined for a hyper-efficient 67 points on 42 shots and turned the ball over just five times as a group. Ejim was aggressive all night. He threw down an alley-oop early and finished a baseline drive with a reverse dunk, but kept Texas honest by hitting a pair of threes as well. Niang was a match-up nightmare as usual and did an excellent job of pulling Cameron Ridley outside of his comfort zone, while Kane picked his spots to attack and pitched in on the boards per usual. Rick Barnes deserves credit for orchestrating one of the game’s best turnarounds this season, but while winning in Ames is much easier said than done, his scouting report Tuesday night left a lot to be desired.
- Cameron Ridley Disappears: Despite having the biggest size advantage of anyone on the floor, Cameron Ridley had a night to forget, and it can reasonably be argued that it cost the Longhorns a big road win, and perhaps more importantly, a chance to catch Kansas in the league standings. The big man failed to crack the scoring column in the first half while turning the ball over three times, and Texas didn’t look his way much at all in the second half. His ineffectiveness allowed Iowa State’s defense to cheat out to the perimeter, where it held the Longhorns to an unimpressive 30 percent clip from three-point range. Ridley’s come a long way in his conditioning this season, but he had trouble handling Iowa State’s uptempo style.
- Texas Goes Cold From The Floor: When most people think of Iowa State, they think of a finesse offensive team that doesn’t care much for defense, and there’s some truth to that. The Cyclones don’t force many turnovers; they don’t crash the offensive glass; and despite playing a high number of possessions, their foul totals are consistently low, which implies that they naturally shy away from potentially disruptive contact. All of those tenets held up at Hilton Coliseum Tuesday night, so the Cyclones made up for it by pestering Texas into shooting 32.9 percent from the field. Iowa State’s backcourt held Javan Felix to 6-of-22 shooting, and even though Texas freshman guard Isaiah Taylor finished with a game-high 26 points, he missed 12 of his 20 shots from the floor, making up the difference from the free throw line.