So much of this game seemed like it was going to become a true turning point for the Texas Longhorns’ season. The Horns’ practically dominated from the opening tip and never trailed the high-powered Iowa State offense until, well, Monte Morris’ game winner at the buzzer to lift the Cyclones over Texas 69-67.
A more critical play was junior points guard Javan Felix attempting a three pointer after a Texas offensive rebound with the game tied and about eight seconds left on the clock.
Felix missed and Iowa State rebounded the ball with a chance to win the game. It was a microcosm of the frustrating Texas season.
But head coach Rick Barnes didn't blame Felix for the shot after the loss:
Barnes: "You'd like to hold the ball there for that last shot, but I can understand Javan shooting it, with the rhythm he was in."— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) March 13, 2015
In the first half, it was lights out for Texas. They came out hitting their three, going 5-7 from deep. The offense was clicking. Ball movement was crisp, which led to nine assists on 14 first-half field goals, and it also helped that the defense was smothering, and a bevy of key players were getting involved and knocking down big shots, which led to the Longhorns going into halftime with a 36-25 lead over the defending Big 12 Tournament Champions.
But then the second half started and as expected, Iowa State started hitting their shots – they went only 11-30 (3-11 from deep in the first – and it quickly became a basketball game that the boo-happy Cyclones crown was growing increasingly excited about.
Between various runs, headlined by Georges Niang and Isaiah Taylor, a back-and-forth game led to the Longhorns leading by 10 with 4:07 left to play. All they had to do was not screw up and their NCAA Tournament ticket would certainly be punched. But then, for whatever reason, the Texas’ offense resorted to standing up top and waiting until the final seconds of the shot clock to attack and it wasn’t going well. Missed shots led to fast break chances for Iowa State and just like that, Texas only led 67-61 down the stretch.
Barnes defended the conservative strategy after the game:
Rick Barnes on slowing down the offense: "I really had confidence in (Taylor), because I felt like he had good command of where he was."— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) March 13, 2015
From there, with 2:16 to play, Dustin Hogue knocked down a corner three, which was soon followed by a horrible 10-second violation by Taylor. This, then lead to a Morris three to tie the game after a 10-0 run by the Cyclones. Some stagnant, let’s stand around and heave a three-pointer offense later and Texas had a chance to somehow, still win this game.
With 38.1 second to play, the Longhorns had the ball with the score ties at 67 and a chance to take the lead. Taylor, again just stood at the top before missing his patented floater.
Lammert miraculously came up with an offensive board and with Texas having a chance to win the game on the final possession and guarantee themselves a spot in the Big Dance, a kick out led to the mindless Javan Felix three pointer with 9.2 and just like that, Iowa State’s streaking offense has the ball with 5.8 to play.
We all know how it ended from there.
Of all the Longhorns losses this season, this has to be the most heartbreaking. Texas had a chance to solidify their place among the field of 68 after four straight wins, and played like this would come to fruition until the final four minutes of the game.
All we can do now is pray that Texas still gets the nod on Sunday.
And all the while, Horns fans will continue to call for the resignation or firing of Rick Barnes.