The Texas Longhorns are still the nation's top-ranked team, but they learned a lesson that on Wednesday night that holding on to the top spot might be harder that reaching it.
In their first road test of conference play at a pumped up Hilton Coliseum in Ames, the Iowa State Cyclones (11-5) gave the Longhorns everything they wanted and more with timely shooting and tough play inside. However, Texas' defense and the offensive presence of Damion James and Avery Bradley helped the Longhorns pull out a 90-83 win.
The Horns (16-0) came out with an aggressive run and gun game-plan to start the contest. Texas made five of their first six shots, and some nice shooting from Bradley, James and Dexter Pittman helped the Longhorns build a 18-10 lead with 11:30 to play in the first half.
Thirty seconds later, a three-pointer from Lucca Staiger with a hand in his face ignited the Iowa State offense and the Hilton Coliseum crowd. Junior college transfer Marquis Gilstrap picked up five straight points for the Cyclones to tie the game at 20-20, and from that point on the first half shoot out was in full force.
Star forward Craig Brackins scored seven points, Staiger had six, and Gilstrap added five points (all in the last eight minutes), as the Cyclones shot 66.6-percent from the field in that span.
On the other side of the court, Texas
remained hot from the field and finished the first half with a flurry, as James hit two clutch three pointers in the last five minutes to keep the Longhorns within three. However, it was freshman Jordan Hamilton who came to the rescue in the last two minutes.
Hamilton hit a shot from behind the arc and then followed up with a nice drive to the basket for a lay up and a foul call. Hamilton made the free throw to cut Iowa State's lead to 44-42 at the break.
The next 20 minutes were a little different story than the first 20, as Rick Barnes once again pressed the right buttons with his team in the locker room, and the Longhorns returned to the floor with a full court pressure defense in high gear. Iowa State was greatly aggravated by the aggressive defense and Texas took advantage by forcing turnovers and turning them into 10 straight points to take a 52-44 lead to open the second frame.
The Horns would never trail again.
Bradley went berserk from long range making four straight three pointers in the second half and ended the night with 24 points. James fought through foul trouble to make his way to 23 points on the night including two three-point makes of his own and a perfect 7-of-7 night from the free throw line.
The Texas defense held Brackins to just one
shot attempt through the first 13 minutes of the second half and the future NBA player scored only seven points in the half to end the game with 18.
Jai Lucas, Gary Johnson, and James helped close out the game combining to score Texas' final seven points on 7-of-8 shooting from the charity stripe.
Inside the Numbers
Texas ended the night making 32-of-65 (49.2 percent) shots from the field, a fantastic 8-of-16 (50 percent) from deep, and 18-of-28 (64.3 percent) free throws. Meanwhile, Iowa State made 30-of-67 (44.8 percent) shots, 7-of-19 three pointers, and 16-of-23 (69.6 percent) from the line. The rebounding battle was closer than Texas wants, but the Longhorns won the battle 40-36. Texas again committed way too many turnovers (14), but forced Iowa State into 13 giveaways.
Star(s) of the Game
You think James made the right decision to return for his senior season? Not only did the senior break Nick Collison's record for most rebounds in Big 12 history with 15 on the night, but he also poured in 23 points to pick up career double-double No. 46.
James is playing with intensity each night,
especially on the glass. He will not be denied a rebound, even if he is competing against a teammate for the board. When James is on, this team is extremely tough to beat.
"It's cool I guess, but I don't really get into that type of stuff," said James of his newly acquired rebounding record. "I plan on just crushing the record where nobody else can get it."
Not to be outdone Wednesday night was Bradley. The ultra talented freshman continued his hot shooting streak after his 29-point showing against Colorado by making 10-of-14 shots from the field including 4-of-4 from deep for 24 total points. Bradley was also his same old disruptive self on defense, forcing multiple turnovers, including a clutch steal to close out the game in the last minute. If he continues this kind of play, don't look for Bradley to be wearing burnt orange next season.
"I just feel like I'm getting more comfortable playing with my teammates," said Bradley. "It's more my teammates trusting and believing in me, and them getting me the ball when I'm open. And when they did, I just made the shot."
Jordan Hamilton played a very nice game, mainly in the first half. Hamilton single handedly brought the Horns back in the last few minutes of the first half with six straight points going into the break. He was active on the boards and it was nice to see him go up strong for an offensive rebound and put back in the first half. Hamilton ended the night with 11 points, all coming in the first half, and he continues to improve and adjust to the college game.
Brown showing worth, limiting turnovers
J'Covan Brown continues to show his offensive talents and has a real knack for driving into the lane and drawing fouls. He ended the night with 11 points, but was a bit unlucky missing all three of his attempts from behind the arc. Brown did commit two turnovers, but showed an improved ability to make the right decision with the ball. He found teammates and never threw up a bad shot. With Dogus Balbay failing to find any kind of shot, Brown and Lucas have the opportunity to take more and more minutes away from the junior.
Longhorn Dunk O'Meter
Avery Bradley - 1
Damion James - 1
Dexter Pittman - 1
The Big Number
Texas made 8-of-16 shots from three-point range against Iowa State, and that kind of deadly long range shooting is incredibly tough to beat. Four came from Bradley, two from James and two from Hamilton. With those three making shots, along with presence of Brown and Lucas, the offense has a plethora of players that can consistently knock down deep shots, and that is a huge advantage compared to last year's squad.
The Longhorns will head back to Austin to take on Texas A&M Saturday evening at the Erwin Center. Tip off is set for 5:00 PM.
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