There weren’t any fans allowed in the stands at the Frank Erwin Center on Tuesday night to watch the highest ranked Texas team in head coach Shaka Smart’s tenure take on the Iowa State Cyclones.
But the lack of a true home court advantage didn’t faze the No. 4 Longhorns, as they beat the Cyclones 78-72 and moved to 9–1 on the season. Texas maintained their undefeated conference record, moving to 3–0 in Big 12 play. Redshirt junior guard Andrew Jones scored a career-high 23 points to lead all players, finally eclipsing the 22-point mark that he previously hit three separate times in his Longhorn career.
After Texas’ record-breaking blowout win over Kansas on Jan. 2, Smart said Tuesday’s game against 2–5 Iowa State had the potential to be a trap game for the Longhorns.
“The game easily could’ve been a trap for us tonight after coming off of (the win against) Kansas, with the big road game coming later this week and a weird feeling in there with no fans,” Smart said.
During the opening minutes of the first half, Texas seemed to take its foot off the gas, with the Cyclones taking an early 16-10 lead and center Solomon Young carving up Texas’s interior defense with six quick points.
“To start the game, some balls weren’t going in for us,” Smart said. “We weren’t guarding as well as we needed to, but our guys did a good job settling in and attacking.”
Senior center Jericho Sims would lead the charge, sparking a 27-11 run in the last ten minutes of the first half with a ferocious dunk. Smart said Sims was the best player on the court against Kansas, and the center didn’t miss a beat against Iowa State, scoring eight points and collecting seven rebounds in the first half.
“I just feel like everything is opening up now for me as we get into (Big 12) league play,” Sims said. “I remember at this time last year, I really started to take off as far as playing better.”
In the second half, it was Andrew Jones’s turn to shine. The guard poured in tough bucket after tough bucket and was able to drive to the hoop at will, even after he started the game shooting 0-for-3 from 3-point land.
Jones reached his career-high point total on 50% shooting from the field, despite only hitting three of his nine attempts from beyond the arc.
“He shot 20 balls, but I look at the tape, and I think they were mostly good shots,” Smart said. “I have such high expectations for him that everytime he shoots a three, if it’s a good shot, I think it’s going in.”
Iowa State would continue to fight to keep the game respectable. Texas’s lead hovered around ten points for much of the second half, and the Cyclones would cut the deficit to six points with just over a minute left in the game.
Then, senior guard Matt Coleman hit his signature stepback clutch jumper to give Texas a solid eight-point lead with just under a minute to play.
“That was the biggest shot for us,” Smart said.
Texas will get another opportunity to maintain their undefeated record in Big 12 conference play when the team travels up to Morgantown, West Virginia to play the No. 14-ranked Mountaineers.
Jones was asked whether Texas owed West Virginia something after the Mountaineers beat the Longhorns in a humiliating 97-59 loss last year.
“We owe everybody something,” Jones said. “We got a lot to prove. We want to let everybody know Texas is here, and we’re here to stay.”