Iowa State (11-4, 1-1) put on an offensive clinic on Saturday in Ames, where four Cyclones scored in double figures and three more finished with at least 7 en route to a comfortable 82-62 victory over Texas (8-8, 0-3). With Sheldon McClellan's injured ankle limiting him to just a minute of action, the Longhorns' already slim odds of an upset really looked long, but Texas hung tough for the first 35 minutes of action -- narrowing an 11-point halftime deficit to 5 twice in the first 6 minutes of the second half and had just trimmed Iowa State's 12-point lead down to 7 over a two-minut stretch when it got the ball back on a Jonathan Holmes rebound with 6:54 to play.
Unfortunately, not only was that as close as the Longhorns would get, but the game was over 60 seconds later. Following the Holmes rebound, Julien Lewis turned the ball over and Iowa State buried a three from the corner to push the lead back to 10. Lewis then turned the ball over again, and Iowa State came down the floor and -- you guessed it -- hit another three point basket. Ballgame.
The path to a Texas upset in Ames on Saturday involved the Longhorns' stingy defense denying Iowa State the excellent perimeter scoring on which they depend. From my game preview:
Second, there's also a key match up in this game that may well be the dispositive one on Saturday: the Longhorns' national best three-point field goal defense (22%) versus Iowa State's three-point heavy offense (34% of points come from beyond the arc). It won't matter if Texas shoots the ball as pitifully as they did on Wednesday versus West Virginia, but if they score like they did against UNC and Baylor and Iowa State has a 5 for 24 shooting day from three point land, the Cyclones will have a problem on their hands without improving elsewhere to make up for the lost offense (e.g. by getting to the free throw line).
It was a key match up, and Iowa State won it decisively. The Cyclones knocked down 7 first half three pointers and 11 for the game, shooting 42% from beyond the arc while Texas -- as it has all year -- struggled mightily in hitting just 4 of 18 from long range (22%). That brings Texas' season totals shooting from three-point range to just 75 makes on 256 attempts, a woeful 29% that ranks around 290th nationally.
The Longhorns did well from inside the arc in connecting on 47% of their two-point attempts (to ISU's 45%), but the Cyclones did a great job attacking and getting to the line, dominating the free throw battle by going 21 for 27 from the line while limiting Texas to just 10 of 13. Up and down the box score, Iowa State either matched or got the better of Texas. Iowa State grabbed 41% of their missed shots, to Texas' 38%, and finished with 18 assists against just 5 turnovers, while Texas assisted on 16 and turned it over 11 times, leading to a 23-5 edge for the Cyclones in points off turnovers.
There's no shame in losing at Hilton and all things considered I didn't think Texas played poorly until the final 5 minutes when ISU's back-to-back three-pointers deflated the Longhorns' comeback bid and they ran out of steam. Mostly, Texas just got beat by a very good team today. I wrote before the game that I was impressed with Fred Hoiberg as an offensive coach, and lo and behold we just saw Korie Lucious and somehow he no longer sucks (10 points, 9 assists, 3 turnovers 2-4 3PFGs in 32 minutes). In fact, with Lucious emergence to give the Cyclones a solid player at the point, I came away from today's game thinking these Cyclones look a good deal like last year's outstanding Missouri team. Lucious isn't as dynamic as Pressey, but the Cyclones have ball handlers and shooters at every position that allow them to spread you out and destroy you from the perimeter.
As far as bright spots for the Horns: Jonathan Holmes played a very nice game to give us 15 and 9 in 29 minutes, and Papi rebounded from a poor effort against WVU to contribute 13 and 7 in 21 minutes. And Demarcus Holland played his best game of the season, turning in 25 solid minutes in which he gave Texas effective play running the point while Felix (34 minutes) rested, scored 6 points and dished out 4 assists against 2 turnovers, and was the Longhorns' best perimeter defender.
As for those who were less effective, with McClellan unable to go Julien Lewis took his turn as the primary offensive player and fared about how McClellan has in the same role: he scored 15 points, but not efficiently, needing 15 shots to get there and shooting ice cold from outside (1 for 5 from three point range). Jaylen Bond was terrible again today, giving Texas 20 empty minutes and showing no ability to create any offense. As for Felix, he had some nice moments and did a better job of valuing the basketball, but he continues to dribble the ball far too much, with too little ability to penetrate the defense.
All in all, this wasn't a bad loss for Texas so much as a strong win for Iowa State, but as noted before the game, after dropping the two heartbreakers in overtime to open Big 12 play 0-2, not only has the team's margin for error has vanished but they now need to find an unexpected win or two on the schedule. Today's loss was not exactly unexpected, but Texas now falls to 8-8 overall and 0-3 in the conference, farther away from the NCAA Tournament than they were to start the day.
Up next? A week of practice before Kansas invades the Erwin Center next Saturday. If Texas loses, it will mark the first time during the Rick Barnes era that the team has been under .500 after the 15-game mark in the season.