Texas Basketball | Texas Longhorns: Recaps and Preview of Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor, and Oklahoma

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Editor-in-chief at hookemreport
Randy Maltz is a die-hard sports fan, with passion for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns. He is Founder & Editor of Silver and Blue Report and Hook 'em Report. He still idolizes Roger Staubach and Tom Landry.
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Brad’s Longhorns Corner
Texas Basketball | Texas Longhorns: Recaps and Preview
By Brad Kellner – Columnist Silver and Blue Report & Hook ’em Report

Rick Barnes, Texas Longhorns, Longhorns, University of TexasDespite the unexpected success that this Texas Longhorns Men’s Basketball team has had this season, there is still one glaring concern with this University of Texas squad coached by Rick Barnes.

 The Longhorns are a completely different team away from the Frank Erwin Center. The last three games have been direct evidence of this team’s youth and inability to win on the road.

Texas’s up and down eight days started with a road game last Tuesday night against the Iowa State Cyclones.  The teams met in Austin in mid-January and the then unranked Longhorns used a strong second-half to upset the 8th ranked Cyclones. The Horns established their dominance down low as Cam Ridley and Jonathan Holmes had big nights at The Drum. The win occurred in the heart of the Longhorns’ seven-game win streak and Texas was the much better team in that matchup.

In Ames, however, the Longhorns were overmatched. The dominant Texas defense that held the Cyclones to just 39 percent shooting in Texas was torched by the ISU “big three.” Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane and Georges Niang all put up 20-plus for Iowa State, and the Cyclones shot nearly 50 percent from the floor in route to an 85-76 win.

The Horns trailed by nine at the break, but were able to claw their way back and tie the game at 48 with just over 14 minutes to go. After that, however, the Cyclones went on a 25-12 run to take a lead they would never relinquish. During the run, Texas went more than six minutes without hitting a shot and the Horns looked lost offensively. The biggest storyline in the game took place in the painted area. The Horns outscored Iowa State 34-22 down low in Austin but were outmuscled at Hilton Coliseum, getting outscored 40-18 in the paint.

My expectations going in to last Tuesday’s game were pretty low and despite the loss, I was pretty impressed with what I saw for Longhorns for the majority of the contest. The Horns took some early punches to the mouth but were able to fight back on multiple occasions. In a game that looked to be a first-round knockout like we saw at Kansas State, Texas was able to battle and force a ten-round heavyweight fight with ISU. The Horns haven’t won in Ames since 2010, and the Cyclones have been lethal at home, winning 34 of its previous 36 home conference games heading into last Tuesday’s matchup. Despite the tough environment, I wasn’t too crushed with a road loss against a very formidable opponent.

While there were some positives to take away from the loss in Iowa, nothing good came away from Lawrence on Saturday. The Longhorns were absolutely dominated by the 6th ranked Kansas Jayhawks from start to finish, losing 85-54 at Phog Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.

KU definitely had revenge on its mind after getting knocked around by the Horns in Austin on February 1st. Texas came into the first matchup ranked for the first time all season at No. 25. The crowd at the Erwin Center was rocking, and for the first time since the Kevin Durant days, Horns fans overflowed the student section and there were more fans than seats in the arena. The Longhorns came to play in front of their home fans and dominated Kansas on their way to an 81-69 victory.

Everything that went right for Texas at home went way wrong for the Horns on the road. The Horns shot just 34 percent for the game, which was pretty remarkable following an abysmal 20 percent shooting in the first half. After opening the game on an 8-3 run, the Horns were outscored 33 for the remainder of the opening frame. Texas hit just one field goal over an 11-minute stretch as the Jayhawks went on a 32-5 to put the game away in the first half. Kansas shot nearly 63 percent in the first half and put up 46 against a Texas defense that held KU to just 23 in the first twenty minutes in Austin. Isaiah Taylor, who scored 23 in the first matchup and 27 in the loss at Iowa State, went 1-14 from the floor. Javan Felix, who had been scoring at will since coming back from injury, went just 2-9 in the loss. Texas was outmatched in Lawrence and looked lost playing against the raucous crowd at The Phog.

The two road losses pushed the Longhorns back towards the pack in the Big 12 standings and knocked them back in the rankings to No. 24 in the AP poll. Last night, the Longhorns hosted Baylor in what felt like a must-win game at the Erwin Center.  Texas’s signature road win of the season came against the Bears in Waco on January 25th. The Horns needed a bounce back win last night in order to keep pace in the Big 12 and avoid dropping out of the rankings.

Texas got off to a great start in the friendly confines of The Drum. After mounting an early 16-13 lead, the Horns went on 17-3 run over an eight-minute stretch, pushing the lead to 17. The margin would eventually reach 18 points with a couple of minutes to play in the first half, and the Longhorns took a 42-27 lead into the locker room. The Horns were up by four at halftime in Waco, and used a strong second half performance to pick up a 14-point victory on the road.

The second half in Wednesday’s game was a different story. Baylor implemented a 1-3-1 zone with some man-to-man principles to begin the half and the Bears were able to slow down the Texas offense that shot 52 percent in the opening twenty minutes. Baylor opened the second half on an 18-7 run to cut its deficit to four points. The teams traded baskets for a while and BU came within three points at 59-56. Texas responded with eight unanswered points and looked to be back in the driver’s seat. However, Baylor went on another run, this time a 13-3 stretch, cutting the deficit to just one point with 1:37 to play. Isaiah Taylor hit a wild left-handed layup to push the lead to three and Cam Ridley blocked a Kenny Chery layup near the end to regulation to preserve the victory.

The win was a big momentum boost for the Longhorns, who improved their record to 10-5 in the Big 12 and 21-7 overall. Texas currently sits tied in second place in the conference with Iowa State with three games remaining. The biggest of the three contests comes on Saturday afternoon in Norman, when the Longhorns take on the Oklahoma Sooners on the road. OU knocked off Texas by three in the first Big 12 game of the season for both teams. The Longhorns will have to pretend like they’re in Austin on Saturday and will need a strong performance to beat a very talented Sooner squad.

For the Longhorns, there really is no place like home. Hopefully Texas can make the Lloyd Noble Center its home on Saturday by picking up a big road win against Oklahoma.

Rick Barnes, Texas Longhorns, Longhorns, University of Texas

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