After a come-from-ahead loss against the Baylor Bears, the Texas Longhorns are on the verge of imploding in the midst of an already disappointing season. After dropping back-to-back heartbreakers, Texas prepares to host an Iowa State team that may be equally as desperate for a conference win — the Cyclones are just one spot ahead of the Longhorns in the conference standings, No. 5 and No. 6 respectively.
In their previous matchup, Texas briefly managed to give Iowa State a scare, closing the lead to one point with 1:28 left to go but were unable to fully retake the lead. The Cyclones capitalized on their opportunities to close the game out and came away with their sixth conference win, becoming the first team to reach that mark.
In the month since both squads have gone 3-3 and put themselves squarely in the middle of the conference with just a week left before the Big 12 play wraps up.
Texas is in a much different spot now compared to the last matchup. With senior guard Kerwin Roach II out indefinitely due to a violation of team rules and senior forward Dylan Osetkowski questionable for Saturday’s game with an illness, Texas could potentially be without its two senior leaders for a pivotal home game.
Against Baylor, Texas managed to build a 19-point lead thanks in part to the team’s shooting, led by 23 points from sophomore guard Jase Febres and a double-double from freshman guard Courtney Ramey. However, the scoring dried up and sophomore guard Matt Coleman III missed a game-winner as time expired to send the game to overtime.
The Cyclones, in spite of their recent struggles, have been able to get it done on offense, leading the conference in scoring with 78.3 points per game, led by Marial Shayok. The senior guard ranks second in the conference in scoring with 18.6 points per game and is coming off of a 21-point performance in Iowa State’s 16-point win over the Oklahoma Sooners. And when the Cyclones win, they manage to win big with five of their nine Big 12 wins coming with at least a 13-point margin.
Iowa State also does an incredible job taking care of the ball, ranking tenth in the nation in assist to turnover ratio, turning in a 1.48 average and averaging 16 assists per game. Freshman guard Tyrese Haliburton leads the charge for Iowa State with a 4.48 assist to turnover ratio and is one of just five players this season to be named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on multiple occasions, along with teammate Talen Horton-Tucker who recently received his second honor thanks to a 20-point outing against the Kansas State Wildcats, his fifth 20-point game of the season.
With their postseason and coaching future becoming more cloudy, this matchup for the Longhorns becomes more pivotal than ever.
If Texas wants to finish the season above .500, they need to come away with wins in two of its next three games. If they want to the conference regular season above .500, they need to win all three to close out the season.
The game tips off in Austin at 1 p.m. Central on ESPN2.