Coming off their first conference win (and one of the better games they’ve played all year), the Longhorns (7-7, 1-1) head north on I-35 to take on an Iowa State Cyclone (9-4, 1-1) team that one-part knows exactly who they are and one-part finds themselves searching for a new identity post Georges Niang. Is this a winnable game for Texas or simply another in the long line of UT teams who come up to Ames only to head home in disappointed fashion?
Backcourt play. For the second game in a row, the Longhorns will take on one of the best backcourts in the conference led by an All-American level point guard. Iowa State’s perimeter playmakers (Long, Burton, Thomas and Morris) can all shoot, pass and move with or without the basketball. They account for 65% of ISU’s points scored this season, 70% of ISU’s assists and 76% of their made three pointers (with all four shooting above 36% from deep). There’s not much this team backcourt can’t do and Texas’ young perimeter defenders are going to have to fight not only a group of talented guards but also the esteemed Hilton Magic in many of their first trip to Ames.
Ball control. Morris is the straw that stirs the drink and the Cyclones will ride the senior point guard as far as he can take them (more on him in a minute). And one thing you know you’ll get with Morris is a player who simply doesn’t turn the ball over. The Cyclones lead the nation in fewest turnovers committed, which is a dangerous recipe for a Texas team that is at its best in transition. If the Longhorns can’t manufacture those open floor opportunities by turning ISU over, what will that mean for their offensive output?
The Cyclones look to be led by 6’2 senior point guard Monte Morris (14.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, .9 steals per game). Four years in, four straight years where Morris has been top five in the nation with assists to turnover ratio. He’s always been a steady playmaker, but his progression as an offensive creator for himself has been the real key to his growth over his time in Ames. Morris now has the ability to function in, essentially, every way (scorer, creator, facilitator, spot up shooter). Texas will have their hands full and how well Roach handles Morris on the defensive end will be a key to the game.
Interior pretty much everything. Iowa State’s four-guard lineup allows them to switch screens at will, get into the face of the opponent’s’ ball handlers, jump passing lanes, what have you. But, as you might imagine, it’s at the expense of their interior defense and rebounding. ISU is dead last in the conference in blocks, offensive rebounds, offensive rebounds allowed and defensive rebounds allowed. Let’s just say they’d take Jarrett Allen in a heartbeat. If Mack can be a net positive on the glass and as a penetrator, Texas could really hurt the Cyclones on the interior.
Texas Keys: Offense
Getting into sets. ISU won’t pressure full court, but once you get across the half court line, the Cyclones will bring heavy ball pressure in an attempt to take the opposing point guards out of their rhythm. To put it lightly, that’s been an issue for Roach and Jones. Obviously, avoiding turnovers will be key, but so too will be Texas’ ability to get into their offensive sets as early in the clock as possible. Late clock playmaking will favor ISU more than the Horns, to be sure.
Texas Keys: Defense
Allen’s foul trouble. After Morris, Allen has a chance to be the most influential player in this game…IF he stays on the floor. ISU will look to attack him in dribble penetration Allen will have to stay under control and off the bench. If Allen’s minutes are in the 30 range, Texas could be in business. If they’re closer to 10, this will probably be a blowout.
Roach on Morris. Kerwin’s defense is phenomenal, but he’ll be tested by Morris in a number of ways. Roach will have to stay out of foul trouble (which has been an issue for him) but also whatever he can do to force Morris to get the ball out of his hands will be a help for UT. That’s a chess match worth watching for sure.
This one has the chance to fall away pretty quickly if Texas isn’t careful.
The Horns need to control the glass, limit Morris as a playmaker, take advantage of every turnover, find shooters immediately…and they could still lose as Hilton is one of the biggest home court advantages in all of college basketball.
The win on Wednesday was impressive, but Texas’ struggles with consistency suggest a difficult outing.
Here’s hoping they’re ready to take a big step.
Prediction: Iowa State 71 – Texas 60
Projected Starting Lineup
Want all Inside Texas has to offer from Justin, Eric, Ian, Scipio, Tim, Joe, and more? Click Below!