With 11:41 remaining Iowa State led Texas 60-39. The Longhorns outscored the Cyclones 47-29 the rest of the way and the Hilton faithful held their breath as Iowa State squeaked out the victory 89-86.
Offense was far from the problem for Iowa State as they shot a blistering 54.7% from the field and 42.9% (6-14) from behind the arc. The Cyclones took advantage of Texas' 2-3 zone in the first half and used some of the best ball movement of the season to open up a 36-25 halftime lead behind the shooting and passing of Georges Niang.
Texas switched to man defense to start the second but failed to slow the Cyclones as they used a consistent inside out approach to open their 21 point lead. For the rest of the half Iowa State was content to trade buckets with Texas and kept them comfortably at bay with a 73-59 lead at the five minute mark. The lead had whittled down only an additional point when the final media timeout was taken with 3:24 left in the game.
And as anyone who has watched this year's edition of the Cardiac Clones can attest, focus became a major issue down the stretch. The Cyclone defense relaxed and was content to give up quick penetration and easy buckets. Alone that tactic is tolerable, but Texas' press caused two turnovers by Bryce Dejean-Jones in a row which resulted in an 11 point lead quickly falling to six.
The stat sheet will credit Dejean-Jones' first turnover to Niang, but anyone that saw the play happen knows that Dejean-Jones failed to close on the ball and his half hearted, one handed attempt was not what you expect from a senior. On the next possession Dejean-Jones dribbled directly in to the halfcourt trap and turned the ball over for an easy transition lay up.
With the lead cut to six, Fred Hoiberg called a timeout to regroup his team, failed, and the tense moments continued. Simply put, making one free throw and missing the other will allow leads to erode when giving up easy buckets. It becomes that much worse when struggling swingman Jonathan Holmes hits two three pointers to keep chipping away at the lead.
Niang closed the game by making a free throw to make it two possessions with 20 seconds left, but the fact the Cyclones found themselves in this position after leading by 21 is disgusting.
- As Iowa State flipped their offense to attack the inside they also flipped the script on how they win. A team plagued by slow starts all season scored on their first five possessions and opened up a 10-2 lead. A 27-12 run in the second half opened up the 21 point lead, but it was the finish everyone will take away from this game.
- Despite Niang's late struggles at the line, he had a great stat line: 19 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He was also 3-4 from downtown, and was great in switching situations on Myles Turner for most of the first half.
- Dejean-Jones put together a stat line that we have come to expect with 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, but his two late turnovers led directly to Texas moving this game to single digits.
- Last season the 2 guard spot struggled early in the year until Naz Long found his footing, and it appears to be going through a similar slump currently. Long chipped in 8 points to go with his 7 rebounds and 4 assists, which by itself is a solid stat line, but Matt Thomas had only 2 points to go with his 2 turnovers in relief of Naz. With 3sus being the obvious back up point guard it's key that another person steps up at 2 spot to keep the spacing Hoiball requires to succeed.
- Another night, another game where Jameel McKay shines. His raw athleticism showed in both good and bad spurts tonight, but his 14 points tonight were key late in the first half as the Cyclones began to pull away.
- I won't even try to calculate Texas' shooting percentage late in the game, but they were abysmal in the first half with no makes from behind the arc and struggles to get to the paint after the insertion of McKay. They made 10(!) shots from downtown in the second half and shot shot 47% from the field overall. Looking at the stat line this wouldn't amaze most people, but given how Texas played for 35 minutes tonight it's disappointing to see Iowa State close out the game by allowing so many open and easy looks.
Next Time Out
Iowa State will host TCU at 1 PM on Saturday on ESPNU.