In an unprecedented series of events, the Texas Longhorns tied the Iowa State Cyclones 67-67 in the Big 12 Conference quarterfinals. Iowa State fought back from 10 points down to tie the game at 67 with 1:47 to go. The teams traded turnovers & missed shots until Isaiah Taylor missed a jumper, which was rebounded by Connor Lammert & Rick Barnes used his last timeout. During the timeout, Coach Barnes walked over to Fred Hoiberg and started chatting with Coach McDreamy. Holly Rowe brought her microphone over to the two and caught the exchange:
Barnes: "Fred, you seen any good movies lately?"
Hoiberg: "You're going to laugh, but I just saw 'Rocky' for the first time."
Barnes: "No kidding? I've seen that thing 100 times. Love that movie."
Hoiberg: "It was fantastic! I never expected the fight to end in a tie."
Barnes: "Yea, that was a real twist, but it was the only ending that made sense."
Hoiberg: "Man, ain't that the truth."
Barnes: "That fight kinda reminds me of this game, just two opponents at the top of their game trying to knock each other out."
Hoiberg: "You know, you're right. Hey, Rick?"
Hoiberg: "What if we ended this game in a tie?"
Barnes: "You serious?"
Hoiberg: "Sure. It only seems fitting."
Barnes: "Can we do that?"
Hoiberg: "I don't see why not. If we both agree to it, they'll have to let us."
Barnes: "So what happens to the semifinal game? We can't both play Oklahoma. Or Oklahoma State, if they win."
*both Barnes & Hoiberg laugh hysterically*
Barnes: "No but seriously, who plays Oklahoma?"
Hoiberg: "Why don't you play the first half and we play the second half?"
Barnes: "Heck yes, let's do it! Lon's gonna be pissed."
Hoiberg: "Hey, Rick?"
Barnes: "Yea, Fred?"
Hoiberg: "I love you, man."
Barnes: "Aw heck, stop it. You're gonna make me blush."
Barnes: "It's alright, I love you too. Let's go tell the refs."
And with that, the first ever tie in Big 12 tournament history came to pass.
- The first half of basketball was sublime. Texas played their best 20 minutes of the season, showcasing nearly everything you wanted to see from this team. Javan Felix was nails from everywhere, Jonathan Holmes was a disruptive force on both ends of the floor, Isaiah Taylor was getting into the paint at will, Connor Lammert had arguably his best half of basketball in a year...everything was working. That was the apex of Texas basketball right there; if it had gone any better, I would've needed a towel.
- Isaiah Taylor has turned it up a level, and to his credit Rick Barnes was exploiting it. Some people were complaining about the decision to hold the ball & run ISO plays for Taylor, but it was the right call in many respects. One, it negated Hoiberg's tactic of running under screens on Taylor by removing the second defender from the equation; and two, it allowed Taylor to use his superior speed to create either an open shot or dish to an open player. Also, he was bleeding the clock and keeping the ball out of the Cyclones' hands. They can't score if they don't have the ball. For most of the game, it worked. To Hoiberg's credit, he eventually countered it by sending a 2nd defender at Taylor before he started to drive, forcing the action & creating discomfort within the Texas offense. But on the whole, the tactic was a sound one.
- Jonathan Holmes looks like he's back. 5/10, 15 points, 3/7 from 3, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Great showing by the senior.
- The last shot notwithstanding(we'll get to it), Javan Felix had a very good game. 10 points in 16 minutes despite dealing with a nagging ankle injury and his shot selection ranged from 'defensible' to 'quality'.
- Cameron Ridley & Connor Lammert did an excellent job neutralizing Jameel Mckay on the night.
The Last 18 Seconds
Let's split this into two pieces, the offensive possession & the defense of the final possession.
Connor Lammert's offensive rebound was much needed & he passed to Taylor, which makes sense. Taylor passes to Felix, who immediately takes a long 3. Now, a couple of things: first, Barnes not using a timeout was something I could go either way on. If you want him to take the timeout and setup a play, I'm fine with that. I don't know that it would've ended up much better given Texas' issues getting the ball inbounds against pressure, but it's a reasonable argument. Second, I don't hate Felix's shot. I think we all would've rather he take it 5 seconds later, but the shot itself wasn't terrible coming from a guy that was 4/4 on the night and was taking a wide open shot. Those are generally the types of shots you want Felix taking. I don't know that anyone(including Taylor & ISU) was expecting Felix to shoot that, either. Holmes had his hands out ready for the pass, Lammert didn't start running for a putback until after the shot left his hand, and Cam wasn't ready to rebound. I don't think Barnes wanted that shot, he was gesturing for Taylor to drive. That's on Felix, in my opinion.
Texas makes ISU take the ball 90 feet from the rim, drive the length of the court in 5+ seconds, and take a fadeaway jumper against Holland. Credit Hoiberg's design on clearing out the side of the court for Monte, but that's a tough, tough shot to hit. Texas defended that about as well as you can & lost; sometimes it happens. Tip of the cap to ISU for making a low-percentage jump shot.
- Georges Nieng and Monte Morris torched Texas over and over again. For as well as the defense played on Mckay & the rest of Iowa State, they had no answer for those two. They combined for 2/3rds of ISU's offense on 16/30 from the floor.
- Demarcus Holland hit a free throw with 3:56 left in the game. Texas never scored again. Their possessions went as follows: missed layup, turnover, missed 3, turnover, missed 3, turnover, turnover, missed jumper, missed 3. For as well as Texas played for ~35 minutes, the last 5 minutes were rough. Bleh.
- Prince Ibeh was a letdown tonight; I really would've liked to see him contribute more, but he had an off night. I'm not concerned about him or anything, he just wasn't on his game tonight.
This game is an absolute gut-punch; once again Texas gets about as close as humanly possible to a big win without actually winning. They're still on the bubble, but at least on the right side of the bubble. Losses by ODU, A&M(thanks, aggy!), and Illinois have whittled down the bubble teams significantly. If I had to guess, Texas squeaks in as an 11 or 12 seed(perhaps in a play-in game). In some ways, that might be better than winning against Iowa State because then they start getting talked about as maybe a 9-seed which puts them looking down the barrel at a 1-seed in the next round(provided they made it that far, which is a big 'if' now). Dino Gaudio - who I'm fairly sure runs a New Jersey 'import/export business' in his spare time - said if the committee is using 'the eye test' then Texas is in, and I'd tend to agree. It's hard to watch Texas over the past 2 weeks and not see a team that's playing some of its best ball of the year. But, because they lost, they now have to sit and wait. Whether they're dancing or hosting a NIT game next week will be known Sunday night. Cross your fingers, everybody.