Texas came out tight in the first half, and Iowa wasn't much better. Both teams looked nervous, they looked like players playing their first game of the season against a well-regarded opponent on national TV. Sometimes it is easy to forget that this game is played by 20-year-olds, but tonight that fact was hard to avoid.
In that ugly first half, Iowa was a little better, in part because the Hawkeyes were able to find their way to the line, and Iowa forward Aaron White was able to get free on offense, including a possession where he broke loose on the baseline, received a lob pass in mid-air above the Longhorn defense, and flushed the ball.
At the other end, Texas struggled to run offense and score.
It just looked like nerves.
But Rick Barnes team finished up the first half reasonably well, scoring twice in the last minute, while holding Iowa to a single basket after the final media time out. And after an ugly half, the Longhorns were only down by six.
The second half came, and Jonathan Holmes wasn't having any more of it. The Texas wing came out in the second half on fire, attacking the basket and finishing with a dunk in the first possession. Aaron White hit a jump shot on the following possession. Texas came right back down the court and Holmes dropped a three. After a blocked shot by Connor Lammert, Isaiah Taylor grabbed the rebound, raced down the floor, and found Holmes for a layup and a free throw.
Tie ball game. Iowa would briefly take the lead back on a three ball by Aaron White, but the Texas offense had come alive, and the giant interior D was activated. After several more baskets, Texas took the lead for good with another Jonathan Holmes three with a little more than 17 minutes remaining in the game.
Texas never really looked back, steadily extending its lead throughout the rest of the game. Holmes was on fire, the Longhorn offense was clicking, and no one on Iowa could stay in front of Taylor.
Holmes' second half 17 point offensive explosion could potential distract you from how great the Texas defense was, but consider this: Iowa shot 16-54 from the floor, converting 29 percent of their threes and 30 percent of their twos. Texas blocked eight shots, which was one out of every five Hawkeye two point attempts. The only offense that Fran McCaffery's squad could scrape together was Aaron White at the free throw line, where he went 14-16.
The only real concern for Texas coming out of the game is with Isaiah Taylor. With two minutes remaining, and the game on ice, the Texas point guard drove to the hoop and took a hard foul from Gabriel Olaseni. Taylor came down on his wrist, and was clearly in pain. Olaseni was called for a flagrant foul on the play and tossed from the game.
- Aaron White can ball. Anyone who follows the Big Ten knew that already, but White is a handful for a defense. He has size, which means that trying to defend him with a smaller player can lead to trouble, as was demonstrated in the first half when he pinned Kendal Yancy on his back deep in the paint for an easy score. And he is quick off the dribble, making it hard for players his size (White is 6-9) to match up with him. Tonight, White's contributions were felt most significantly at the line, where he scored 14 of his game high 23 points, but he did get one chance to show just how high off the deck he can get with his first half dunk.
- Iowa threw a lot of different defenses at Texas, including some full court pressure. While Texas struggled in the first half, for the most part the Longhorns handled Iowa's pressure well.
- So far on the season, Jonathan Holmes is 7-10 from three point range. Small sample size theater, I know, but Holmes can really shoot the basketball and playing on the wing is going to allow him more chances to do it. That said, it is good that he still has a chance to do other Jonathan Holmes things; he logged three offensive rebounds tonight, despite spending more time away from the hoop than in seasons past.
- Connor Lammert played a quiet game, but he made a big difference on the court. His nine rebounds, defensive presence, and passing was a big help for Texas. And he might be starting to catch up to Javan Felix in their Amish beard challenge.
- Texas' minutes rotation tightened up a little tonight. Jordan Barnett saw the court for three minutes, didn't look ready, so Barnes sat him down for the night. Prince Ibeh played only nine minutes, although they were productive ones -- Ibeh grabbed five boards, blocked two shots, and generally made his presence felt.
- Texas made Iowa look small. That isn't going to happen a lot.