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Texas faces tall task of battling Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum

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Texas will square off with Iowa State at 8:15 p.m. CT on ESPN2

Texas v Iowa State Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images

Just days ago, Shaka Smart’s Texas Longhorns celebrated a Big 12 home-opening victory over a 10-win Oklahoma State team in what was arguably the ‘Horns best performance of the season. This evening, against the Iowa State Cyclones, the task at hand is significantly taller and if Smart’s bunch hopes to surpass the .500 mark on the season once again, it will require near perfection from a team largely still discovering its identity.

Regardless of how you angle it, the odds are stacked against Texas.

This isn’t just a road game: It’s a road game in Ames, Iowa, where the Cyclones have won 36-of-40 games during the last three seasons, including a 7-1 record in 2016-17. Meanwhile, the ‘Horns are 0-5 away from home this season and haven’t won in Ames since a 90-83 victory during the 2009-10 season, in which Texas began the season 17-0.

Concern about Texas’ youth and inexperience is considerably justified, as well. While the five contributors that see the floor most often for Texas are three sophomores and two freshmen, Iowa State boasts one of the nation’s most experienced units, headlined by a starting five consisting of nothing but seniors. The task for Texas is come with slowing down the unit that’s on the court at the tip, but that, too, is a chore far easier said than done. Four of ISU’s starters consist of one of the nation’s premier floor generals in Monte Morris, a sharpshooter in Matt Thomas, a do-it-all wing in Nazareth Mitrou-Long and the physical bruiser helping stretch the floor as a versatile big in Deonte Burton. Factor in big man Darrell Bowie and the Iowa State’s starting five collectively contributes a whopping 75.8 percent of its nightly points, 67.8 percent of all rebounds and 76.3 percent of assists.

Even as a collective unit, Texas is inferior to Iowa State in nearly every meaningful statistical category:

Points per game

· Iowa State - 81.0 (41st)

· Texas - 70.4 (255th)

Assists per game

· Iowa State – 15.9 (69th)

· Texas – 11.5 (T-306th)

Total assists

· Iowa State – 207 (T-159th)

· Texas – 161 (T-311th)

Assist-Turnover ratio

· Iowa State – 1.64 (7th)

· Texas - .91 (257th)

Rebounds per game

· Iowa State – 42.3 (8th)

· Texas – 36.5 (194th)

Offensive rebounds per game

· Iowa State – 12.3 (80th)

· Texas – 10.5 (T-194th)

Defensive rebounds per game

· Iowa State – 30 (T-7th)

· Texas – 25.9 (T-172nd)

Total rebounds

· Iowa State – 550 (T-152nd)

· Texas – 511 (240th)

Rebound margin

· Iowa State – 2.9 (122nd)

· Texas - -.2 (225th)

Turnovers per game

· Iowa State – 9.7 (4th)

· Texas – 12.6 (T-109th)

Turnover margin

· Iowa State – 5.4 (8th)

· Texas - .5 (T-156th)

Fewest turnovers

· Iowa State – 126 (1st)

· Texas – 177 (T-73rd)

Fewest fouls

· Iowa State – 201 (1st)

· Texas – 249 (T-65th)

Scoring defense

· Iowa State – 63.8 (33rd)

· Texas – 66.5 (73rd)

Defensive FG %

· Iowa State – 37.1 (6th)

· Texas – 39.6 (44th)

Scoring margin

· Iowa State - +17.2 (15th)

· Texas - +3.9 (153rd)

Should I go on, or is it completely clear that Texas is simply playing a team that outmatches it in nearly every aspect of the game?

The only areas Texas is a statistically better unit than Iowa State comes at the free throw line – every aspect of it – and rejecting shots, which Iowa State is one of the nation’s worst at, ranking 278th in blocks (37) and 231st in blocks per game (2.8).

If Texas is going to beat Iowa State, it will be due to a near perfect game because the Cyclones simply don’t beat themselves. Iowa State rarely turns the ball over and rarely fouls while still playing some tremendously efficient defense, so points won’t come easy for the ‘Horns. Though it’s easier said than done, Texas’ inside-out game will have to be at peak performance tonight in Ames for the ‘Horns to have a chance, with Shaquille Cleare and Jarrett Allen each having big games, while the wings protect the ball at hit at a high clip from the perimeter.

Asking Texas to escape Ames with a victory is like asking a group of students entering their first day of algebra class to ace a calculus final. Sure, it’s possible to some extent, but highly improbable and even illogical.

Texas – 64, Iowa State, 79