Armed with a significant homecourt advantage for perhaps the first time in school history, the crowd at the Moody Center on Tuesday evening urged the willing No. 8 Texas Longhorns to a dominant 72-54 victory over the No. 23 Iowa State Cyclones to maintain pace in the race for the Big 12 regular-season title.
The outcome was never seriously in doubt after a 16-0 run by the Longhorns midway through the first half. Texas held Iowa State scoreless for long stretches and was often scorching hot offensively, ultimately shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three as the intensity lagged at times in the second half, especially out of the break.
Former Iowa State guard Tyrese Hunter was locked in on both ends in scoring 15 points with five assists and fellow guard Sir’Jabari Rice continued a stretch of strong performances with 15 points of his own, 10 of which came in the decisive first half.
In a balanced performance from the entire guard corps, Marcus Carr added 13 points and five assists while Brock Cunningham had a major impact on the game that his box score of eight points, four assists, and three steals can’t fully elucidate — the plays he made simply came in key moments that created the insurmountable margin for the visiting team.
Credit as well to forward Christian Bishop, who only scored three points, but had a game-best plus/minus of 29 points.
Similar to the strong start for Texas in Ames, Iowa State was hot early in Austin, going on an 8-0 run before the under-16 timeout thanks to 4-of-6 shooting start for the Cyclones. Ball denial on off-ball screens by Iowa State forced a quick adjustment by Texas — working on the wing through Cunningham or forward Timmy Allen. As the visiting team cooled off from the field, Texas surged to a 12-0 run with threes from Carr and Rice, capped by a pump-fake drive from Rice that forced a timeout.
Out of the timeout, full-court pressure by the Horns forced a 10-second violation by the Cyclones, further igniting a raucous crowd in the Mood. With Iowa State throwing a zone at Texas, Carr hit a difficult jumper and a steal resulted in Rice taking a trip to the free-throw line after the under-12 timeout, extending the run to 16 unanswered points and a 20-10 lead before Allen took a charge right in his chest, the seventh turnover by the Cyclones.
Iowa State finally broke the 5:50 scoreless drought with a three-point play as Texas guard Arterio Morris came off the bench to score five quick points, then Cyclones sharpshooter Gabe Kalscheur hit two threes in a flurry of shotmaking. To stem the surge by Iowa State, Hunter hit a three and the defensive intensity ramped up again before a deflection sent the game into the under-eight timeout.
A layup on a cut off the ball and a three off an assist from Carr extended the lead to 12 points for the Longhorns before Texas forced another turnover by Iowa State and Morris hit a heat-check three for an 11-0 run. When Bishop passed out of a double team to start a sequence that found Carr for a three and Allen hit a jumper, the Cyclones were truly reeling facing an 18-point deficit and another timeout to talk things over.
The lead stretched to 20 points after Rice and Carr both hit more threes and the defense continued to force difficult possessions by Iowa State, ultimately heading into halftime with a 47-29 lead thanks to 54.8-percent shooting from the field and 56.3-percent shooting from three in addition to a 21-8 advantage in points off turnovers.
Seven empty possessions to open the second half highlighted more effective trapping for Iowa State baiting passes into the corners and overall poor offensive execution by Texas. Fortunately for the Longhorns, the Cyclones weren’t able to take advantage on the offensive end, gaining just a 2-0 advantage heading into the under-16 timeout.
Cunningham hit a three late in the shot clock to finally open the scoring for the Horns in the second half after more than five minutes, then hitting a bank shot. As the Cyclones hit three straight shots from the field, Cunningham helped maintain the margin with his strong offensive play, hitting another bank shot and drawing a foul at the under-12 timeout.
The game lost intensity for a significant stretch as Texas missed 2-of-7 shots prior to the under-four timeout and Terry called for a break with 5:08 remaining when Iowa State cut the lead to 14 points with a plodding 7-0 run broken by a jumper and a dunk from Allen back off the bench followed by a three from Rice to end any doubt.
Tied once again with Kansas for the Big 12 lead, Texas hits the road on Saturday for another important matchup with No. 9 Baylor in Waco.