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Sputtering around in the first half, Texas catches fire in the second, roaring past Iowa State

No. 23 Texas has won four of its last five powering into Monday’s date with No. 10 Kansas

Texas found its sea legs with a three-game winning streak to close out January. Then the Horns ran into basketball karma.

Let’s face it: Nobody was going into Lubbock last Tuesday and coming out victorious. Not the way Texas Tech built up that moment, and not the way the Red Raiders played.

Maybe that was just a one-off. No. 23 Texas quickly got back on the winning side of the ledger with Saturday’s 63-41 blowout of No. 20 Iowa State. It wasn’t an ideal start but a rather stunning finish as the Longhorns hit six second-half 3-pointers, turning a squeaker into a rout at the Erwin Center.

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Texas guard Andrew Jones lofts a 3-point shot over Iowa State guard Tyrese Hunter. Jones scored 14 points, hitting on 4 of 7 3-pointers.

“In the second half, they did a great job spacing us out, making shots, put us on our heels defensively, and they controlled the game from that point in,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. 

Texas (17-6, 6-4 Big 12) has won four of its last five, has two wins over Top 25 teams and — at least for now — has four Quad 1 wins as other teams rise and fall. The hiccup at Texas Tech aside, coach Chris Beard’s squad is gathering steam as UT powers into Monday’s date with No. 10 Kansas.

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“Just the next game. Next game on the schedule. Continue to play hard,” Texas guard Andrew Jones said. “As long as we go out there and be aggressive and we’re applying pressure, we’re hard to beat. We can beat almost anybody in the country.”

Texas forward Tre Mitchell leaps to block a shot by Iowa State's Izaiah Brockington in the Longhorns' win over the Cyclones on Saturday at the Erwin Center.

As a live-in-the-moment guy, Beard usually doesn’t like to look too far ahead. Still, “Kansas is pretty good. They’re having another good season. We’ll have to play really well,” he said.

“What do we have to work on? Just being us,” Beard added. “It’s not really about the opponent. We feel like if we play Texas basketball, we can probably play with anybody.”

Saturday’s game against the Cyclones (16-7, 3-7) was one of those Jekyll-and-Hyde moments that left you questioning how good the Horns might or might not be.

At times in the first half, the offense was just plain hard to watch. Texas jumped out to a quick 10-3 lead as Courtney Ramey and Jones both hit 3-pointers. But then the Horns began one of their patent-pending scoreless droughts. 

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Texas forward Christian Bishop swats away a shot by Iowa State guard Gabe Kalscheur.

Dylan Disu missed a dunk attempt and then missed another from point-blank range. Tre Mitchell, playing on a bum ankle, threw a bad pass at a teammate’s feet, and the ball went out of bounds. Timmy Allen missed a 3-pointer and another shot closer. While all this was happening, Iowa State’s Izaiah Brockington was slicing up the lane as the visitors went up 20-16. 

Marcus Carr’s baseline jumper with 6 minutes, 5 seconds remaining was just Texas’ third field goal in almost 10 minutes. Mitchell’s spin move and score off the block got the Horns back within one.

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And therein lies one of this team’s strengths. Even when the offensive motor isn’t rolling over, much less starting, the Longhorns tend to hang around because of their defense. 

“There have been some times where obviously we’re not keeping the other team from scoring,” Beard said. “But it’s not because we’ve changed our buy-in or identity. I mean, we want to be a team that can win in March. And we want to be a team that can win games when it matters most, and to do that you have to have a defense.”

Just hang in there and, hopefully, the pistons will start firing. Sure enough, Carr got it going with a lob pass to Christian Bishop for a dunk just before halftime. Carr followed that with a 3-pointer, giving UT a 25-23 lead and energizing the 13,656 fans in the house.

“It certainly got them going,” Otzelberger said. 

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Carr opened the second half with another 3-pointer.

“When Marcus is aggressive, confident and loose,” Jones said, “when he has the right mindset and is attacking, we’re all going to follow suit and bring that same type of energy.”

Christian Bishop makes sure of two points for the Longhorns with a dunk in the second half.

Brock Cunningham, making just his second career start, scored on a reverse layup. Bishop scored. Ramey blasted a 3-pointer, Jones followed with not one, not two, but three 3-pointers — stopping to admire the last one, which gave Texas a 47-36 lead.

Even Mitchell rang up a 3-pointer, proving to coaches he’s ready no matter the circumstances. Beard said Mitchell turned his ankle in practice, but the 6-foot-9 forward still had six points, two rebounds and one assist. Mitchell might not have been 100%, Beard said, “but he is 100% effort and buy-in.”

Once the Horns got it rolling, even the crazy plays worked out. Ramey threw a pass to a cutting Timmy Allen, who nearly lost the ball in the paint. He corralled it and slipped it to Bishop for a dunk. Texas was on an 11-0 run and led by 13 with 8:25 remaining.

Carr finished with 14 points, five rebounds and a season-high eight assists. Jones also had 14 points while Bishop added 10. Allen had a team-high eight rebounds. Texas shot 43.9% overall with 12 turnovers, two of which came in garbage time.

“It’s not anything they did special,” Iowa State forward George Conditt said. “We can’t let our bad offense affect our defense at all.”

The Cyclones sure enjoyed their 79-70 win over the Longhorns in Ames on Jan. 15. This time around, not so much. 

“I think today it probably wouldn’t have mattered who our opponent was,” Beard said. “If we play like that in the second half, we could play with anyone in the country.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.