- Texas went on to win over Texas Tech 72-70 despite trailing double figures at the end.
- The Horns are only averaging 31.4 points in the first half of Big 12 games. They have had to overcome a double-digit second-half deficit in their last two home games.
- Guard Jabari Rice made 16 of 19 free throws in the second half of the last two home games.
When the Texas Longhorns enter the Hilton Coliseum in Iowa on Tuesday night, they will be missing out on a lot.
They’ll miss “Texas Fight!” chants from their new hive, also known as the Moody Center. The Horns have played in front of 11 consecutive sell-outs and draw an average of almost 11,000 fans if you score at home.
Gone is the comfort of these homemade discs and DJ Mel’s old school hip-hop jams coming from a state-of-the-art sound system. Hell, they’ll even miss Matthew McConaughey’s pre-match promotional song.
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What they better watch out for is too many first-half field goals or they’ll go back to 512 with a second championship loss. Iowa’s No. 12 was 9-0 at the Hilton and nearly knocked down Kansas’ No. 2 on the road Saturday. The Cyclones, who beat then No. 1 North Carolina, would like nothing more than to push Texas into the middle of the Big 12 in this 4-1 league battle.
The No. 7 Horns have been infamous for slow starts in their last three home games, a worrying trend even as they rallied to pick up victories over TCU and Texas Tech in the last two. They’ve managed to rally lately, but being stuck in the park is a recipe for a real fight unless they find a way to rev their engines in line before the game.
Saturday’s 72-70 win over Texas Tech moved Texas 15-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12 game – good for a tie for second place – but it’s been a long time since Rodney Terry’s team put together a solid 40 minutes of basketball.
Oh, they’ve had some good halves, but it’s been uneven lately.
The Big 12 is the best conference in the country, so there are no days off. Last-placed Tek had possession with nine seconds left, just one point behind No. 1 Kansas at home on January 3, before the loss doomed the Raiders to a 75–72 loss.
Terry said that full games start with good preparation and great attention to defense.
“I tell our guys all the time, get lost by playing very hard on defense and enjoy the offense very lightly,” Terry said. “You are ready to take an open shot. You are ready to hit an open teammate. If you have such a mindset, we can show our strength in attack.”
The troubles of the first half are confusing and it seems that the venue doesn’t really matter in conference play when it comes to similar struggles. In five conference games, the Horns are averaging 31.4 points on 46.3% shooting in the first half and 44.6 points on 51.3% shooting in the second half. In terms of three-pointers, Texas is shooting 24% in the first half with three or fewer threes in the first 20 minutes in four of five games. Conversely, the Horns hit 19 of 46 triples (41.6%) in the second half.
Their best offensive game came in a 116–103 home loss to Kansas State, a game in which the Horns shot 53.5% from the field and shot 40.7% well from three-point arc but were powerless to stop the rampaging The Wildcats, who are shooting 60% from the field and 54.2% from 13 three-pointers.
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But even that massive scoring tally came from the Horns hitting 37.1% from the field in the first half before flaring up late.
It’s not a worrying trend yet because Texas has found a way to go 4-1 in the league, but it’s something to keep an eye on. The Horns won’t have friendly restrictions to lean on during tough times, so a better start will obviously take the load off the added complexity of playing away from home. Those 20-4 runs are hard to find on the road.
They’re battle-tested, but Iowa won’t be a picnic.
Rice was closer to Texas: New Mexico State alumnus transfer Jabari Rice is fully respected by Big 12 coaches and players for his uncanny ability to sell an exaggerated fake pump to opposing defensemen, allowing him to get to the bucket and call fouls.
A sixth Texas man came to the rescue for his team in the last two home games in the second half, with much of the damage done at the free throw lines. Rice has made 16 of 19 free throws in the second half of his last two home games, giving him the unofficial title of The Closer.
“I give credit to my teammates,” Rice said. “They motivate me and give me confidence. Obviously I haven’t had a good first half in the last two games, but it just happens. As a player, you just have to keep pushing, just keep pushing back, trying to find a way to help the team.”
Rice doesn’t throw a big percentage (.456), but he makes well-timed shots. Two triplets in the second half were much needed: one tied the score at 44-44, and the other extended his team’s score to 56-53 with 5:08 left.
Bols:Whatever Rodney Terry said at halftime worked in Texas’ latest comeback.
Texas Tech coach Mark Adams said that Rice was the focus of his team during the game’s run, but Rice still scored his points and pushed the Horns to the finish line.
“He comes off the bench and gives them a lot of energy,” Adams said. “He plays hard and gets to the foul line. He also shoots free throws very consistently. He’s a winner, a tough guy, and he gives the Texas team depth and personality.”
In this new transfer portal/NIL era, college teams have taken advantage of veteran talent. Getting older is even more important these days, and the newest old man from Texas was a terrific addition.
Please, more NBA games in football arenas.: Miami Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said he could present an NBA game in front of 100,000 fans. That would eclipse the league record of 68,323 that was set after San Antonio’s 144-113 loss to Golden State on Friday, when the team celebrated its 50th anniversary at the venerable Alamodome.
The city of Alamo knows how to throw a fiestas and Spurs legends Gregg Popovich, David Robinson, Sean Elliott and Avery Johnson have been there, to name but a few. Sure enough, Golden State coach Steve Kerr was one of the 2003 league champions after three wins with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
Thanks to Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, the late Commissioner David Stern, Jordan and the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, the game became world famous and continues to spread everywhere. Successes like Friday will no doubt open the door to new NBA games in football stadiums. How about Luke’s Mavericks and LeBron’s Lakers at Jerry World in front of 100,000 people? I would pay to see this.