The No. 23 Texas Longhorns used a 15-0 second-half run to separate from the No. 20 Iowa State Cyclones in a much-needed 63-41 victory at the Erwin Center on Saturday to give the Longhorns another crucial Quadrant 1 win.
In the final 16 minutes, Texas out-scored Iowa State 28-10 as the Cyclones finished the game shooting 3-of-20 from the field, missing all seven three-point attempt, and turning the ball over seven times. Shooting 28.6 percent from the field overall was the worst mark for Iowa State this season.
At halftime, the Longhorns held a 25-23 after senior guard Marcus Carr found senior forward Christian Bishop for an alley-oop dunk out of a timeout and a steal allowed Texas the final shot, a three made by Carr. The final sequence of the half gave the Longhorns some momentum — a “psychological advantage” in the words of Iowa State head coach TJ Otzelberger — and they consolidated it after the break, hitting four of their first five three-point shots as the Cyclones defense weakened.
Carr opened the half with another three, junior guard Brock Cunningham scored on a layup, Bishop finished through contact for a difficult basket near the rim, senior guard Courtney Ramey hit a three, and senior guard Andrew Jones hit a three, the first of three for him in the second half with two coming during the decisive 15-0 run. During that run, Iowa State missed eight straight shots and turned the ball over three times while going a little more than seven minutes without scoring.
Iowa State’s George Conditt blamed a lack of physicality for the hot start to the second half by Texas.
Texas head coach Chris Beard had a different perspective.
“It doesn’t matter who our opponent is. When we play like we played in the second half, we can play with anybody in the country,” Beard said.
With Cunningham earning his second career start after junior forward Tre Mitchell suffered an ankle injury in practice on Thursday, Texas played some lineups in the first half that struggled to space the court. When the Horns went on the second-half run, Beard switched to a four-guard lineup utilizing Carr, Ramey, Jones, Mitchell, and senior guard Jase Febres and Texas quickly put the game out of reach.
Jones scored 14 points for the Longhorns with four three-pointers, two assists, and two steals.
“I’m like the fans when he doesn’t shoot it. It’s college basketball and I try not to do that,” Beard said. “Jones is one of the best shooters in college basketball. When he shoots it, I think it’s going in.”
Carr played his best floor game at Texas with 14 points and a season-high eight assists, as well as five rebounds.
“When Marcus is aggressive, confident and loose, he’s one of the best players in the country,” Jones said.
In the frontcourt, Bishop was active for the Horns, scoring 10 points, grabbing seven rebounds, and blocking two shots.
After turning the ball over 20 times in Ames, leading to 23 points off turnovers for the Cyclones, the Longhorns protected the basketball much better, limiting the giveaways to 12 and defending well after live-ball turnovers while taking advantage of mistakes by Iowa State. Texas finished the game with a 24-2 advantage in points off turnovers. Combined with 39.1 percent shooting from three for the Horns and 2-of-15 shooting from three for the Cyclones — a point of emphasis defensively for Beard — and Texas was able to win by more than 20 points.
It was hardly a complete performance by Texas, though — the Longhorns did race out to a 10-3 lead before missing eight straight shots during an 11-0 run by the Cyclones that eventually resulted in more than seven minutes without a made basket by the Longhorns.
The frequent scoring droughts highlight the continued issues for Texas offensively, though opponents certainly deserve some credit, too, as the Horns have now faced five straight opponents with an adjusted defensive efficiency in the top-20 nationally, a streak that finally ends on Big Monday against Kansas at the Erwin Center.