Texas appeared to have at least a small modicum of the killer instinct on Wednesday that they've seemed to desperately lack during their Big 12 slide. To no one's surprise, the Horns appear to be nowhere near the juggernaut they were advertised as in early January. But every now and then, that little glimmer of repute will reappear and dazzle you, however briefly.
That glimmer was far too infrequent in Big 12 play this season, but it made just enough appearances in the second half to help finally push the Horns past a lingering Cyclone squad.
The first half played about as evenly as humanly possible. Case in point:
First half FG percentage: ISU 38.7, UT 41.9
First half 3-point percentage: ISU 20.0, UT 18.2
First half free throws: ISU 3/6, UT 3/6
Texas led Iowa State at the break, 31-28, as the Cyclones turned the ball over in transition twice in the final minute of the half. James and Dexter Pittman combined for 18 first-half points, and LaRon Dendy came off the bench to lead the Cyclones with eight at the break.
That theme carried into the second half as teams traded buckets and traded momentum, with the very pro-ISU crowd coming to life intermittently throughout the second half. Texas led the entire second half, but really wasn't able to put the game away until the final five minutes.
Nonetheless, Texas was still in need of free throws – not exactly the Horns' forte this season – down the stretch to hold off the Clones. Texas went 18-of-28 from the line but was bailed out throughout the evening by several offensive rebounds on missed free throws.
Iowa State stars Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap were given standing ovations by Iowa State fans upon being removed in the final minute. The likely NBA-bound junior and the senior, respectively, combined for 35 points. Four Cyclones finished with double digits in points.
Texas now moves on to face No. 3 Baylor in the ESPN2-televised nightcap game tomorrow. Although top-seeded Kansas is the runaway favorite to win the tournament, the ruthlessly efficient Bears have become a trendy darkhorse pick to take the title.
Baylor swept the season series against Texas, sneaking out a win in Austin in January and annihilating the Longhorns in Waco last Saturday.