Texas basketball uses 17-0 run to power past Iowa State

Nathan Han

Texas started off March on the right note.

Head coach Shaka Smart dialed up full-court pressure early in Ames, Iowa, and his defense didn’t disappoint, holding Iowa State scoreless for six minutes during a 17-0 Longhorn run in the middle of the first half Tuesday night.

The run was all No. 15 Texas needed to come away with a 81-67 win over the Cyclones, winless in conference play, on Tuesday night. 

“It was a blast,” sophomore forward Kai Jones said. “I like when we get to play up-tempo basketball. I feel like that’s when we’re at our best.”

With senior forward Jericho Sims in early foul trouble, Tuesday was the Kai Jones experience.

The sophomore forward scored a season-high and team-leading 17 points and thrived in transition off of turnovers generated by the soft full-court pressure. 

He did most of his damage from the free throw line, shooting an impressive 9-of-10, and flashed his NBA potential in one wild sequence. In the middle of the second half, Jones sank a turnaround jumper on one end, stole an entry pass on the other, then took the ball coast to coast, only to get blocked by the rim on a dunk attempt after a smooth Eurostep move.

“I think I should’ve just tried to lay it up,” Jones said. “My legs probably were a little tired.”

But his legs weren’t too tired to come back the length of the court and nearly come away with an emphatic come-from-behind block directly afterwards.

Jones’ standout performance off the bench was joined by fellow reserve and senior guard Jase Febres, who scored his season-high nine points off of 3-for-4 shooting from behind the arc. 

Febres is still working his way back into peak form after a long recovery from knee surgery that sidelined him one year ago. His 3-point shooting and experience could prove vital for the Longhorns come tournament time, Smart said.

“If he can come in the game and contribute like he did tonight, that’ll be huge for us,” Smart said.

For the other guards on the team, including senior Matt Coleman, unforced turnovers were a sore spot for Smart. Both Coleman and redshirt junior Andrew Jones had four of the team’s 19 total turnovers. 

“Some of those turnovers are just unforced,” Smart said. “Sometimes my daughter will say, ‘Well, I didn’t do it on purpose,’ and sometimes a player will say, ‘I didn’t try to turn it over.’ Well, as a coach, it’s like, ‘You have to try not to turn it over.’”

But the guards helped force the Cyclones into 17 of their own turnovers, five of which came during that 17-0 run in the first half. Both teams played relatively even outside of those six minutes, with Iowa State sixth-year guard Jalen Coleman-Lands scoring 17 points in the second half to keep his Cyclones close.

In the end, the margin was just too much to overcome, and Texas improved to 15–7 and 9–6 in Big 12 conference play while Iowa State lost its 16th straight conference game.

Texas has two road regular season games left to play. First up is No. 16 Oklahoma in Norman on Thursday before Texas goes to Fort Worth to finish against TCU on Sunday.