So, um, that was odd.
With a little more than eight minutes left in the game, Brent Musburger and Fran Fraschilla briefly discussed the Super Bowl, as Iowa State led the game by 18.
With about four minutes left, Musberger gave a rambling tribute to Ernie Banks. While Brent was discussing Mr. Cub, something strange was happening on the floor.
The Texas Longhorns, who had been sliced up all night by the Cyclones, were starting to rally. It was a rally that would ultimately fall short, but would make for an exciting finish for the gamblers.
Somehow Iowa St -5 is a loser. Unreal. #hookem— Andrew Wiggins (@awiggo) January 27, 2015
Yes folks, that is BON co-founder Andrew Wiggins, who I am told occasionally places a bet -- or I mean occasionally would if gambling were legal in great state of Texas.
But back to the game. During the first half, Iowa State stretched out Texas' 2-3 zone, working the ball into the high post, where Georges Niang sliced up the defense, attacking with the dribble and finding cutters along the baseline.
Meanwhile, the Texas offense was stuck in the mud. Partly, the Horns couldn't buy a bucket, missing a number of shots from within a few feet of the hoop. And partly because, after a strong start by Myles Turner, Rick Barnes' squad seemed hell-bent on jamming the rock into the post against a defense that was entirely focused on preventing post chances.
As a result, Iowa State took an 11 point lead into the locker room at half time.
Barnes would leave the zone at half time, switching Texas to man-to-man. Iowa State kept rolling, behind solid shooting and a balanced attack, eventually building a 22 point lead.
Texas' performance was ugly, while Iowa State was on fire.
And then, at some point when no one was paying attention, the tables seemed to turn. Shortly after Brent and Fran's chat about the Super Bowl, Isaiah Taylor drove the basket and converted on a three point play. Then on consecutive trips Jonathan Holmes and Javan Felix hit threes. The next possession Taylor hit a jump shot.
A few minutes later, around the time that the broadcast crew was memorializing the late Ernie Banks, Isaiah Taylor hit another three. It was still a 13 point game, not close enough to get anyone's attention just yet.
After the final media timeout, all hell broke loose. For the rest of the game, all of Iowa State's points came at the free throw line (where the Cyclones nearly gave away the game), while Texas started to get hot. A small lineup of Holmes, Connor Lammert, Kendal Yancy, Javan Felix, and Isaiah Taylor brought Texas to within three points with 20 seconds remaining. After Niang made one of two free throws moving the margin to four points, Texas had a chance to pull to within one possession, but Jonathan Holmes could not convert from inside the paint.
A Myles Turner tip in at the buzzer would make things interesting for the gamblers, but for the rest of us it was a bit too late. Texas had just let Iowa State get too far ahead, and there wasn't enough time to come back.
- For about 30 minutes, Iowa State dominated Texas. Iowa State's mobile big men, particularly the skilled Georges Niang, force opposing centers to have to defend in space. In the first half, Texas countered with a zone, which Iowa State stretched with its shooters, leaving the baseline exposed. In the second half, Texas switched to a man-to-man, and Hoiberg chose to attack the Texas defense by forcing Cameron Ridley to defend Niang 20 feet from the hoop.
- Niang is a hell of a weapon who puts opposing coaches in a bind. He single-handedly neutralized Texas' biggest strength, which is interior defense. Iowa State's roster, with a center in Niang who handles like a guard, and a guard in Bryce Dejean-Jones who is nearly as big as a college center just makes things difficult for a defense.
- Rick Barnes countered by going small for most of the last ten minutes of the second half. The Texas lineup that fueled the comeback featured Jonathan Holmes and Connor Lammert as the two lone big men, with Taylor, Felix, and Yancy or Holland on the floor. Lammert and Holmes were both better equipped to defend Niang, and Texas for the only time in the game started to slow down the Iowa State attack.
- The Texas Longhorns hit ten three pointers. Eight of those ten threes came in the last 11 minutes of the game. this accounts for much of Texas' comeback. When threes are falling, everyone's offense looks good. When they aren't nobody's offense does.