It wasn’t supposed to be as successful of a season as it’s been for the Texas Longhorns (20-5, 9-3), who had to replace players like Myck Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, and others with an incredibly young squad featuring two juniors and no seniors.
Consider it a real redemption for Rick Barnes, plagued a season ago with Kabongo being suspended by the NCAA for over half the season and a gut-wrenching loss in Houston during some postseason tournament you’ve never heard of.
That achievement will be tested this week in Big 12 action, and it doesn’t get much tougher than having to take on the Iowa State Cyclones (19-5, 7-5) in Hilton Coliseum, who’s only lost once at home this season. Against Kansas.
(19)Texas Longhorns at (17)Iowa State Cyclones
James H. Hilton Coliseum | Ames, Iowa
Date: Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
Tip-off: 6:00 PM CT | TV: ESPN2
Texas is 9-1 since starting 0-2 in Big 12 play. What’s been the secret for their rise to the top? Defense and rebounding. The Longhorns are at the top of the conference in field goal percentage defense (39.7) and total rebounding (42). No one else in the Big 12 holds teams under 40 percent shooting, averages over 40 rebounds, or averages over six blocked shots per game.
Iowa State isn’t on the same level in those categories. Yes, they are third in the Big 12 in rebounding, but they don’t match up well with the numerous bigs they’ll be up against. However, with home court advantage, they have other opportunities to notch a win.
It wasn’t like the Cyclones got killed in the first meeting this season.
[Also see: 5 players to watch during TEX-ISU]
Iowa State has a 10-17 record against Texas. It’s damn near impossible for the Cyclones to win in Austin, but they hold a 7-4 advantage in Ames. Melvin Ejim averages nearly 11 points and nine rebounds, with two double-doubles, in seven games against the Longhorns. Georges Niang averages 14.3 points in three games against the burnt orange.
What to watch for
Both Iowa State and Texas are on the opposite ends of the spectrum in assist-to-turnover ratio. The Cyclones average 6.4 more assists and 2.2 less turnovers per game than the Longhorns, but they ended up coughing up the ball 18 times, a season high, in their first meeting in Austin.
Obviously, that can’t happen in Ames, and they need to keep Jonathan Holmes from exploding like he did in the second half to take the game away from Iowa State’s grasp after a decent showing in the first half.
Also, expect Iowa State to attempt a lot of 3′s. Texas is only eighth in the Big 12 in 3-point goals attempted and made. Even worse, they allow teams to shoot 33.9 percent against them. If the Cyclones can get some success from the perimeter early, that will get the crowd rocking and keep the Longhorns spread out defensively.
Ejim nearly averages a double-double against Texas. He needs and will find more success against them in his final regular season meeting because Iowa State will get things rolling from 3-point range early.
If Dustin Hogue can help out on the boards with Ejim, and Niang can get his usual 17 or more points while reeling in the assists, the Cyclones will be in position to grab a huge conference win.
IAST 74, TEX 70 (Odds: TEX +5)