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Longhorns Outlast Cyclones, Draw Baylor Next

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The No. 6 seed Texas Longhorns outlasted the No. 11 seed Iowa State Cyclones, 82-75, behind solid play from the ‘Horn frontcourt and thanks to a seven minute cold stretch by ISU in the second half.

Texas advances to play No. 3 seed Baylor tomorrow evening. Game will tip around 8:30 pm and be televised by ESPN2. Since the last Big 12 tournament, Baylor has had Texas's number, winning the last three contests.

A few quick thoughts on the win--

Things I liked:

  • Texas front line-The key to this game was the play of the Texas forwards. Coming into this season this was where we thought we'd dominate-Damion James, Dexter Pittman, and Gary Johnson. James (28 pts and 16 boards) and Johnson (15 pts and 10 boards) both had double-doubles, and Dexter was dominant (16 pts and 5 boards) in limited minutes (19). As mentioned in the preview and really all season long, this Texas team is significantly better when it attacks inside-out.
  • Jordan Hamilton doing more things than shooting-Jordan was really good in the first half despite going 1-of-6 from the floor. His defense was solid and he rebounded the ball like a 6-7 wing should.
  • Matt Hill in a limited role-There was some eye rolling when he was inserted into the game, but Hill contributed nicely in his 12 minutes. He had three points, three boards, a blocked shot, and set some nice screens to open up driving lanes for teammates.
  • Rebounding-Texas dominated the glass tonight like the ‘Horns did back in November and December and like the Texas frontcourt should. For most of the first half, ISU was even trying to get offensive rebounds. On the game, Texas won the battle on the boards 46-34 and won second chance points 20-6. 
  • Free Throw Shooting down the stretch-Texas may have been just 18-of-28 from the line. The 64% effort is just above the season average, but it was the makes down the stretch that kept ISU from making a late run.

Things I didn't like:

  • Defense-This is a bit picky, maybe, but I still didn't see a solid defensive team. In the first half, it was the transition defense that killed the ‘Horns' chances to pull away. In the second half, the effort was better, and Texas did hold ISU without a basket for over seven minutes, but it was more about ISU missing than Texas doing anything differently or better on defense. The real test on defense will come tomorrow night against Baylor. The Bears are an exceptional offensive team and can score inside and out. Defense is clearly the key.
  • J'Covan Brown playing only 3 minutes-I don't understand this. Don't get me wrong, Jai Lucas played fine. However, Lucas clearly doesn't have the same skill set that does Brown. J'Covan can shoot, can score off the bounce, and demands to be guarded. Brown's defense may still be suspect; I get that. Is his defense any worse than Jai's? Also, looking forward to Baylor, there isn't a single Baylor guard that Jai can defend. It will be interesting to see what Barnes does with J'Covan and Jai tomorrow night.
  • Letting ISU hang around all game-A better team puts ISU away by halftime or early in the second. I was disappointed that Texas never put away a clearly inferior team.

The keys to beating Baylor remain the same as I wrote about just a few days ago.

Keys to the Game:

1. Cut off dribble penetration. In the first game, Tweety Carter killed Texas by turning the corner and getting into the lane. He scored all game long in the paint or got fouled and earned his points at the line. On the game, Carter scored a game-high 27 points, including a solid 10-of-12 from the free throw line. Today will be Carter's final game in Waco, so like James and company on Monday night in Austin, Tweety will be trying hard to go out a winner. His quickness alone makes defending him difficult, but when you add in his ability to knock down the three-pointer, defenses are forced to pick their poison. Play off of him and give him open looks from three or crowd him on the dribble and risk him breaking down your defense by getting into the paint off the bounce. We missed Varez Ward's defense in the first meeting, and I'm afraid we'll miss Dogus Balbay's defense today. For Texas to win, J'Covan Brown's gonna have to move his feet exceptionally well. Brown was solid, along with teammate help, on defending Tommy Mason-Griffin on Monday. Barnes will need an equally strong effort this afternoon.

2. Find shooters in the halfcourt. As a team, Baylor shoots 39% from behind the arc, good for 21st best in the country. The Bears were uncharacteristially cold (just 3-of-12) from three in the game in Austin, and they still won. I expect them to shoot the ball better from deep in Waco. We've already identified Carter as a three-point threat; the other Bear to tag closely is LaceDarius Dunn. The Dunn assignment should go to Avery Bradley. If Carter or Dunn go off, it will be another long road game for Texas.

3. Win battle on boards and points in the paint. As good as the Baylor guard are, it has been the play of the BU frontcourt (Ekpe Udoh, Quincy Acy, and Anthony Jones) that has helped catapult the Bears toward the top of the Big 12 conference. In the first meeting, both teams scored 40 points in the paint, and Texas only outrebounded Baylor 41-40. For Texas to win, Damion James, Dexter Pittman, and Jordan Hamilton must control the defensive glass and limit second looks at the basket.

4. Make LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter defend. This is one of those old bball rules: make offensive players play defense. Like Texas, Baylor is not a deep team, and Scott Drew will probably play seven, maybe eight guys today. If Texas can somehow get Carter or Dunn in foul trouble and force Coach Drew to play AJ Walton or Nolan Dennis for extended minutes, the Longhorns will have a much better shot. This means that Bradley, Hamilton, and Justin Mason need to attack the basket off the dribble and not just settle for jump shots.

5. Play smart basketball. This means a lot of things but is most directed toward the Texas freshman. J'Covan must take care of the ball as Dunn, Walton, and Carter all have the ability to pick his pocket. Brown must also recognize and control the flow of the game--no quick shots, play through Damion James, and look for opportunities to attack the rim. For Bradley, playing smart means playing defense without fouling and not just settling on offense for mid-range jumpers. Avery got in foul trouble against OU on Monday. He is too important to defending Dunn to sit today. For Hamilton, playing smart also means attacking the rim with the bounce, looking for his jumper in spots, and really helping on the defensive boards.

NEXT GAME: vs. Baylor (Kansas City) - Thursday, March 11th 8:30 pm ESPN2