It took the better part of a half but the Texas Longhorns got back on track as they easily dispatched the Iowa State Cyclones, 76-53, on Tuesday night. Texas improved to 24-4 on the season and 12-1 in the Big 12, a game ahead of second place Kansas.
Against by far the worst team in the conference, there are few take-aways from this one. Texas did exactly what it needed to do today: win the game, lead by enough points to get some rest for the starters, and stay healthy. The Longhorns easily achieved all three of these marks.
Unlike most conference home games, Texas did not race out to a huge early lead and coast the rest of the way. In fact, the Longhorns and Cyclones played back and forth for the first eleven minutes. Then Texas took advantage of some hot shooting by Jordan Hamilton and led by nine points at the break.
The Longhorns would then score the first five points in the second half, basically squashing any hopes of the upset. After being relatively quiet in the first, Tristan Thompson took over the paint in the second. TT dominated the glass and scored with turnarounds, layups, and dunks in route to 17 points to go with his 14 boards.
Hamilton was equally spectacular and bounced back well from his worst shooting game of the year. Jordan went for 20 points on 7-of-14 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from deep and 3-for-3 from the line.
Two other quick points:
(1) Over the last two seasons many teams have decided to sag off Dogus Balbay. Some teams gave him a ten foot cushion. Others teams have instructed their defenders to always keep both feet in the lane. Iowa State took an even more extreme approach. Diante Garrett was "assigned" to guard Doge but was actually guarding Thompson on the low block-before Tristan had the ball. This took defending Dogus to a new level.
Consequently, the Texas offense struggled through the first part of the game and feeding the post was almost impossible. Some outside shots and a change in strategy--to have Doge screen for Thompson in the second half--helped loosen things up. I bring this up because I fully expect to see more of this in the tournament and because this emphasizes the importance of J'Covan Brown off the bench. Brown's presence changes an opponents' approach and gives TT and Gary Johnson a lot more room to operate. However, Texas gives up a ton on the other end. This will continue to be a balancing act until Myck Kabongo arrives next season.
(2) Alexis Wangmene was in street clothes tonight and is apparently suspended indefinitely. Our nine man rotation, including Jai Lucas, is down to eight, with Matt Hill as the only available front court sub. I've been as down on Lexi as anyone but even stealing ten minutes, a few rebounds, and some physical defense still makes him valuable. Without Wangmene, foul trouble becomes an even deadlier Achilles' heel and forces Barnes to play some absolutely horrible offensive lineups. Against the Cyclones, Texas did a masterful job of playing defense without fouling. However, on the road or against a more physical team that becomes much more difficult. Texas needs an eligible Lexi in March.
Next Game: at Colorado - Saturday, February 26th 3 PM Big 12 Network