If you had told me before tip off that Texas would get 29 points from Kendal Yancy and 23 from Isaiah Taylor, I'd have predicted a Texas victory over Iowa State on Saturday afternoon. For a number of reasons, it didn't happen, though: Yancy and Taylor paced a solid offensive performance, but the Longhorns weren't able to get it done on the defensive end, where ISU buried the Longhorns with 12 three pointers on 57% shooting.
To some degree, you have to tip your cap to Fred Holberg's crew: it's tough to beat anyone that's knocking down a dozen treys on 21 attempts. That being said, the Cyclones shooting success was in part a product of our defense on ball screens, whether it was one of our guards casually working their way underneath a screen or a big failing to hedge. Our rotations were a step slow all day and what appeared to be a strategic decision to make ISU beat us with the three-ball wound up a losing one.
This team just hasn't been able to get fully in sync. After a promising start, we lost Taylor to injury. Then when he got back, we had to adjust as Taylor readjusted. As Ridley finally settled into a groove, Lammert disappeared and we weren't getting enough from Yancy/Holland. And when Yancy asserted himself and started to excel, Holmes suffered a concussion and has been a ghost ever since.
Saturday's loss to Iowa State may not have been a disaster in and of itself, but it stings as a defeat that drops us to 6-8 in Big 12 play. With just four games remaining, the Longhorns find themselves needing to close out 3-1 to avoid a very nervous Selection Sunday. A victory in Lawrence seems farfetched, meaning Texas will need to pick up a road win at West Virginia on Tuesday and then close out the season with wins over Baylor and K-State at the Erwin Center.
That's doable, but we all know how tall an order road wins are in this conference, and Baylor waxed us by 23 points in Waco and is playing better basketball on both ends of the floor than us right now. I'd guess most Longhorns fans believe this team more likely to go 1-3 than 3-1, and if that happens this would wind up Rick Barnes' most disappointing season in Austin.
I don't know how this will play out, but I will say this: these kids aren't quitters. They're frustrated, but they're still fighting, and I fully expect to see them play to win on Tuesday night in Morgantown. The best case scenario would be for this team to finally put all the pieces together over the next two weeks, winning at least three games and entering post-season play at full strength. We've seen Texas teams that peaked in December/January, and if it's one or the other you'd rather a group hit their stride in February/March.
If it's going to happen, it starts Tuesday night in Morgantown. After that, there's no tomorrow...