Fourteen points by Texas Longhorns sophomore guard Courtney Ramey in the second half and a late 11-0 run produced a 72-68 comeback victory for the Longhorns against the Iowa State Cyclones on Saturday at the Erwin Center.
The Cyclones largely controlled the game from late into the first half until the final minutes, during which the Longhorns made the necessary plays on offense and defense to win the game despite failing to include junior forward Jericho Sims in the offense.
Sims keyed the Longhorns early, dunking on a dribble drive and then capitalizing on a behind-the-head pass from junior guard Matt Coleman for another resounding slam. When junior guard Jase Febres hit a three, Iowa State coach Steve Prohm called a timeout down 7-0 thanks to three misses and a turnover by the Cyclones.
By the time that the under-16 timeout arrived, Sims had scored again on an offensive rebound and Iowa State only managed two free throws for a 9-2 lead by Texas.
Five quick points by the Cyclones, however, cut the lead to two as the Horns made some careless turnovers.
Two threes by Tre Jackson, a 30-percent shooter from distance this season, helped keep Iowa State within striking distance as Texas heated up from beyond the arc with threes from freshman guard Donovan Williams and sophomore guard Andrew Jones.
Seven turnovers in the first 11 minutes by the Longhorns allowed the Cyclones to cut the lead to 21-20 thanks to a 7-0 run finally stopped when Jones hit a layup, his fourth basket in five attempts to start the game. Iowa State responded with another 7-0 run, however, forcing Texas head coach Shaka Smart to take a timeout with 5:39 remaining and the Cyclones possessing a 29-25 lead as the Longhorns lost rhythm on offense.
The timeout didn’t help the offense, as Coleman had to attempt a desperation three as the shot clock expired that never hit the rim. The defense responded, at least, forcing a shot-clock violation by Iowa State.
When Williams hit another three with 2:14 remaining in the half, Texas had gone five and a half minutes without scoring, a stretch that included nine points scored by Iowa State. The defensive intensity returned for the Horns late in the first half, holding the Cyclones without a field goal in the final three minutes to enter the break down 31-30.
Considering that Texas shot 52 percent from the field in the first half and Sims scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting with seven rebounds, a block, and a steal, the Longhorns should have had the lead. Eleven turnovers were the difference in that regard — Texas simply couldn’t get enough shots off to take advantage of the efficient scoring.
Fouls on the first two Iowa State possessions of the second half sent Sims to the bench with three total fouls, sending junior forward Royce Hamm into the game. Hamm has turned the ball over on more than 40 percent of his possessions this season. By the time that Sims returned, Iowa State had opened up a seven-point lead — Sims finished the game with a plus-minus of 14.
A surge by Ramey, who scored all 14 of his points in the second half and set up an offensive rebound by Sims with an aggressive drive to the basket, helped Texas get within two points at the under-eight timeout. Meanwhile, the Longhorns defense held the Cyclones to only one made field goal in more than four minutes.
When Smart had to burn another timeout with 4:45 remaining, however, Iowa State had just scored two straight baskets to push the lead back to five as Texas had trouble getting Sims any touches within the offense.
Then Ramey continued his strong second half, scoring eight of the final 12 points for Texas down the stretch, including two big three-point makes. The second finally gave the Longhorns the lead again before Cyclones guard Rasir Bolton missed two point-blank putbacks. Texas freshman forward Kai Jones got the big rebound and made both of his free throws after he was fouled to put the Horns up by three.
A subsequent offensive foul on Iowa State gave the ball back to Texas with 29.3 seconds remaining. Prohm wanted a foul when the Longhorns threw the ball inbounds, but wasn’t able to get it for nearly 12 critical seconds.
A fast-break dunk by Williams put the exclamation point on the win to keep Iowa State winless this season away from Hilton Coliseum.
In addition to the 14 points by Ramey, Coleman added 14 points of his own, along with four assists. Sims scored 14 points, too, on only eight shots. In the best game of his career, Williams tied his career high with 13 points by making 3-of-5 shots from beyond the arc and limited his negative possessions to finish with a plus-minus of 15, the best on the team.
As a team, Texas shot 52.8 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from three-point range — the 15 turnovers kept the Horns from having a chance to win the game by a more comfortable margin, but only turning the ball over four times in the second time was crucial to the outcome.
The win gets Texas back to .500 in conference play ahead of a Big Monday game against Kansas in Lawrence.