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Shooting From the Corner: Texas Longhorns at Iowa State Cyclones

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Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa State Cyclones defended home court against the Texas Longhorns, beating UT 85-75 in a contest that showed why sometimes talent really does matter. Texas played a solid game offensively, hitting over 41% from the floor and averaging 1.07 points per possession. But they ran into an Iowa State team that had an answer for every defense Shaka Smart & Co threw at the Cyclones, which can happen when you have guys like Georges Niang and Monte Morris playing near their apex offensively. Texas had defensive lapses that will need to be accounted for, but credit needs to be given to the Prohman Empire for exploiting Texas' limitations. Switching defensively is a legitimate defensive strategy against most teams, but when it repeatedly results in Niang getting deep in the paint on Isaiah Taylor or Javan Felix (or Tevin Mack, honestly) things will end badly for you. At the risk of underselling a fantastic Monte Morris performance, Niang was Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds, tonight. His combination of size, senior smarts, and a game that will terrorize YMCA pick-up games well into the 2050s was unstoppable tonight. Lammert & Ibeh were too slow to stay in front of Niang when he drove, Tevin was too weak to keep Niang from going where he wanted, and Zay/Felix were getting tossed around like rag dolls by a guy that's been in the Big 12 since Perry Ellis was conscripted into the Union Army. This is the Iowa State team most people expected when they were ranked in the preseason top 10, and Texas simply doesn't have the elite talent to keep up with that kind of squad when they're firing on all cylinders.

The Good

Tevin Mack

Boy, did he ever remember. Tevin has long been touted as a quality shooter by the staff, and by the shots he takes in the game it's easy to see that he has the green light from Shaka. There have been a couple of games when he showed his stroke(UConn comes to mind), but for the most part this year his results have been mixed at best. Tonight was a peek into what the coaching staff sees regularly, and gives Texas fans hope that maybe next year there's a replacement for Connor Lammert & his unique skillset already on the roster. Tevin still had a couple of freshman moments but was decidedly a positive influence on tonight's contest.

Javan Felix

More than maybe anyone else, the AFH showcases both the potential and the limitations of this Texas team. Javan shot 7-13 from the field, and almost every shot he hit helped keep Texas in this game. He was fearless attacking the lane, and his 3:1 ATO was a great help for a Texas team that needed every ounce of ball movement it could muster. At the same time, relying on a player like Javan is one of those signs that Texas doesn't have the elite athletes across the board that Iowa State, Kansas, and Oklahoma do, and it shows why Texas still has a ceiling on their post-season aspirations. None of this is a criticism of Javan in the slightest, there are few guys in burnt orange that have bled more for this program and few who have gone out on a higher note relative to their start than Javan will this year. But still, if he's one of your tent poles, your tent can only get so big.

Isaiah Taylor

If you were to listen to Fran Fraschilla then look at the box score with the names removed, who do you think would end the game with 8 assists and 1 turnover? Monte Morris, right? Wrong. Zay had a poor shooting night, but he orchestrated the offense about as well as one could possibly hope for. Two elite point guards faced off tonight, and each won in a way you would normally expect of the other. Monte Morris - usually deferential to a fault - went off, scoring a season-high 24 points on a ridiculous 9-13 shooting, while Zay - normally the more offensively-minded of the two - only scored 9 but dished out 2.5x the assists as Morris. I was hopeful the Oklahoma game was an aberration for Zay, and it seems like it was. That's good news for Texas fans.

Kendal Yancy

Yancy came through with 10 points on 4-6 shooting, including 2-2 from behind the arc and was his usual all-over-the-court-grabbing-loose-balls-and-rebounds-and-I-may-not-know-how-to-end-this-hypen-somebody-help-me self. I keep forgetting Yancy is a junior, he's going to be a significant asset next year for this team. I really enjoy watching Yancy play, he's the perfect guy to throw cliches at. "Does all the little things", "glue guy", "can tie a cherry stem in a knot with his tongue"..alright, maybe they don't all apply.

Free Throw Shooting

11-13, including Prince Ibeh missing 2 in a row - 1 didn't count because of a lane violation - which was amazingly shocking to see. Felix was 3-3, Taylor was 3-3, Lammert was 2-2; it's amazing how much better the numbers look when the worst guy becomes one of your best from the line.

Offensive Rebounding

I know Iowa State isn't the best rebounding team in the Big 12, but any time you can rebound nearly 36% of your misses it will help keep you in a ball game. What I particularly like is it wasn't any one person going nuts, the ORs are distributed all over the box score. It shows a solid team effort snagging missed shots.

The Mixed Bag

3-Point Shooting

Tevin masked what was an otherwise poor performance beyond the arc. The non-Macks combined to go 3-16 from behind the arc, including 1-4 from Felix, 0-4 from Taylor, and 0-3 from Lammert. If you want a single reason why Texas lost this game, it was these missed shots. That's not to say they were poor shots - some were, but many simply didn't fall - but when you're trying to keep pace with a squad lighting it up from all over their end of the court, these shots have to fall. It's hard enough winning trading 2s for 3s, it gets nearly impossible trading 0s for 3s.

The Bad

Basically Anything Defensive

Iowa State shot nearly 56% from the floor, and it wasn't because they were nailing fluky shots. In fact, there's a decent argument they should have hit 60% because they missed a few bunnies against a defeated press. Iowa State scored 1.21 points per possession, which is some Golden State With Steph Curry Exacting a Personal Revenge On Your Coaching Staff-level shit. Texas wasn't in it defensively; well, let me clarify, they were trying, there was effort. What was lacking were the little touches necessary to slow down one of the best offensive teams in the country; they were a step too slow on traps, they were on the wrong side of Niang getting buried in the paint, etc. etc. (At least Javan had the idea to front Niang rather than prop him up while he shot his 40th jump hook over a guard like Zay did.) Shaka isn't the type to burn a game tape and move on after a loss, but he might want to limit the amount of time he spends showing this game to the players because at a certain point you have to label the file "Niang did Niang things" and move on.

Eric Davis Jr.

Tough night for the freshman; 1-6 from the floor, 3 turnovers, and only 2 points in 12 minutes. Shake it off, young buck, Texas is going to need you shooting confidently if they're going to make any noise in March.

Texas is now in a 2-game losing streak, albeit on the road to 2 of the top 15 teams in the country. They weren't really supposed to win either game, but I imagine Shaka and crew are disappointed they didn't win at least one of them(especially the game in Norman). Texas can't hang their heads for long though, as West Virginia comes to Austin on Tuesday seeking revenge for their only home loss this season. Texas needs to defend their home court if they want to continue their quest to gain a top-4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Tip is at 6pm CT on ESPN2.

BWG's writing tunes provided by Nicole Moudaber (SFW).