Erwin Center | Austin, TX | Tip: 1 P.M. CT | TV: ESPN2
Vegas: Texas -2.5 | KenPom: Texas, 75-72 (63% WP)
Keys to the game
1. Tighten up the defense – In the first meeting, the Longhorns found themselves in a huge hole after Iowa State shredded their zone. The Cyclones posted a raw offensive efficiency mark of 1.265 points per possession against Texas, their best Big 12 performance of the year, and their fifth-best of the entire season.
The Longhorns traded that zone for quite a bit of man-to-man in an impressive defensive performance against OU earlier this week, which is a reassuring sign coming into this one. To match up with the athleticism and quick ball movement of Iowa State, they will need to be able to perform just as well in a man D this afternoon. Even though the Cyclones will be very tough to keep up with in a man, they are far too disciplined to shut down with a zone.
The toughest matchup defensively for Texas will be found on the wing. With Dustin Hogue (No. 22) and Bryce Dejean-Jones (No. 13) both checking in at 6’6″, a three-guard Texas lineup would give up significant size. However, even with the Longhorns giving up a few inches on the wing, that’s probably the best option. Connor Lammert or Jonathan Holmes would eliminate the height issue at the three, but neither has the agility or foot speed to properly defend Iowa State’s wings in a man.
2. Stop the ball in transition – It would be too simple to say that Texas just needs to control the pace against the up-tempo Cyclones, as the Horns actually look better when they get out and run. However, if the Longhorns agree to a track meet with Iowa State, they have to prevent transition buckets. The Cyclones run the floor very well, and will quickly pile up the easy points if Texas isn’t alert in transition.
3. Attack with the bounce – The Longhorns nearly finished off a crazy comeback in the second half of their loss to Iowa State by spreading the floor and turning Taylor loose. Texas rained down three-pointers, led by a hot Javan Felix, forcing the Cyclones to stick closer to the perimeter and open up the driving lanes for Taylor. When they did try to help down into the paint, Taylor found the Longhorn shooters for open looks outside.
With the recent emergence of Kendal Yancy as an additional three-point threat, the Longhorns have even more options to spread out the Cyclones and let Isaiah do his thing. Spreading Iowa State and tilting the floor for Taylor will also allow the Texas bigs even more space to find offensive rebounds against the undersized Cyclones.
The Longhorns desperately need to log some big wins to boost their NCAA tournament résumé, and Iowa State offers a prime opportunity. If Texas wants to ensure their place in the field, and possibly even play their way out of the dreaded 7-to-10 range of seeds, they will need to score some big scalps down the stretch in a loaded Big 12.
Fortunately for Texas, the Cyclones have historically had trouble winning away from the friendly confines of Hilton Coliseum. Since the advent of the Big 12’s double round-robin, the Cyclones are 31-3 at home, and just 12-21 on the road, including a 2-4 mark this season. To improve their odds of post-season success, Texas will have to continue the Cyclone road misery.