- Texas got off to a good start but fell one behind at halftime before a late drought led to defeat.
- Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State are 5-1 tied for first place in the Big 12. The Wildcats beat the Jayhawks in overtime Tuesday.
- The Horns fell to 15-3 overall and 4-2 in conference play. They visit last-placed West Virginia on Saturday before returning home to play Oklahoma State on January 24th.
Texas had some good wins to kick off the conference, but we’re still waiting for that Big 12 signature moment.
It didn’t happen Tuesday night in Iowa.
The team that wins the Big 12 will have two or three signature wins that will set them apart from the crowd. The best college basketball conference will provide very few opportunities to win a road win or two, but when the opportunity arises, this team should take it.
Just keeping the pitch at home – and the Horns had some good comebacks last week against TCU and Texas Tech – won’t be enough to win this league.
Texas had a chance at Ames but didn’t kick the door open when it opened.
A pair of offensive misses—one in each half—proved fatal in Texas’ 78-67 loss as the Longhorns squandered a chance at the top spot in the conference.
It turns out the Horns missed the opportunity to create a three-way tie at the top of the Big 12. In fact, there is a triple draw. The horns are just not one of those three. It’s Kansas, Kansas and the upstart Cyclones looking down on the rest at 5-1.
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Texas (15-3, 4-2 Big 12) is in a good position to make a move in the league, but the Horns can’t miss an early lead on the road. They are few and far between.
The disappointing part for the fans must have been the lack of productivity in the league’s main offense. The Horns, who were averaging 80.7 points per game, got it from various sources in this otherwise solid start under Rodney Terry, but Tuesday was a tough fight.
Upon his return to the Hilton Coliseum, sophomore point guard Tyrese Hunter started off like he was ready to burn down his former hideout. He scored 10 points in the first eight minutes – screams poured from the stands every time he touched the ball – but then the last 32 minutes he did not score.
Hunter hasn’t been playing 100% lately. Since his first game in Texas, he has been plagued with cramps at the end of games. He’s still been a little awkward lately, but his start gave us an idea of the kind of player he was last season. Despite Hunter’s early hot start, the Horns cooled off with no field goals in the final 7:30 of the first half. However, they were only trailing 36-35.
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Exhausted by a slow start during the Big 12 game, Hunter and the Longhorns finally got out of the net ahead of the opposition, but later ran into stability problems.
As a team, they couldn’t buy a three-pointer. After Hunter made a pair in the first eight minutes, the Horns scored only 2 of 15 the rest of the way.
In an uneven officiating, the judges missed several obvious calls, including Caleb Grill clipping Texas’ Dillon Mitchell in the first half, landing Mitchell hard on his shoulder. It was a physical ball and the horns didn’t adjust as expected. The attack ended late and in the final 12 minutes Horns fell into a coma. After a layup by Marcus Carr gave Texas a 51–49 lead, the Horns scored just four points over the next 8:08.
It’s not really a winning formula.
The Cyclones were selected to finish eighth in the preseason conference, but that ranking takes on a different meaning given the league’s strength. They posted four players in double figures, including Jaren Holmes with 21 points, and answered every run in Texas, although there were very few such runs in Texas that night.
“We were competitive and we were where we needed to stretch a bit here or there,” Terry told 104.9 The Horn. “The game could have gone any way.”
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To make matters worse, the Horns were unable to piece together good defensive possessions. Terry said the goal of each game is to make three stops in a row eight times. In Ames, this only happened three times.
You’ve read this before, but it’s worth repeating. There are no days off at the Big 12. Rarely does a day go by when a basketball barn doesn’t burn down somewhere in this league. Four teams are in the top 11 on kenpom.com, and Texas Tech is the only program not in the top 40.
As the Horns struggled to keep up with the Ames, Kansas State pulled off its biggest win of the season over archival Kansas.
Wildcats coach Jerome Tang is a freshman and has already become a cult hero in the Little Apple. K-State came into the game winning just one of their last 16 meetings and six of their last 60, but held their own against the country’s No. 2 team, bringing it home with an alleyway dunk by Keynotae Johnson followed by a late stoppage to keep 83-82 victory.
As the fans stormed the court, Tang stood on the scorer’s table, microphone in hand, and addressed the crowd.
“It’s not about who we just defeated,” Tang said. “I told you that you would storm the court. From now on, expect victory.”
This is called a corporate victory.
The Horns will have ample opportunity to land some meaningful hits. Last-placed West Virginia will have a catch game on Saturday before they return home on January 24 against Oklahoma State. They still have three games against the top-ranked teams, including a massive double-double at the Kansas-State-Kansas road in early February.
Ask any coach in the league and they will all agree that the Horns are one of the best teams in the country, but an elite football club must be better than fourth in their league.
The Horns have plenty of time to make a move, but nights like Tuesday should give fans pause.
There are areas where they just don’t look elite, and for Terry and his staff, that should be a concern.