The Longhorns proved they could beat a quality opponent even when J’Covan Brown can’t find his shot.
Texas got enough strong play from its role players and bench to overcome a rough shooting night from its leading scorer to beat Iowa State, 62-55, on Tuesday night to snap a three-game losing skid.
Brown shot three of 16 from the field and scored 12 points, but all nine Longhorns scored to help pick up the offensive slack.
“Our game plan was to try to slow down Brown and we played off a few guys and a couple of them made us pay for it,” Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Freshman point guard Myck Kabongo led the charge with a team-high 13 points. After one of his worst performances of the season in his last game, Kabongo responded nicely. He didn’t run the offense to head coach Rick Barnes’ liking on Saturday, but provided a spark and a scoring punch against the Cyclones.
Fellow rookie Julien Lewis added 12 points with seven rebounds. Sheldon McClellan offered five points, including a pair of key jump shots down the stretch as Iowa State began to rally when UT fell out of rhythm offensively.
“You want to see that from those other guys when I’m struggling from the field,” Brown said. “Those guys gave an extra lift. That makes everything better for me and helps me relax more.”
Brown didn’t have much time to relax in weeks prior.
During the team’s three-game skid, Texas relied heavily on Brown to shoulder much of the offensive burden. The junior guard entered the game as the Big 12’s leading scorer at 19.5 points per game and had scored just under 27 per outing over that stretch. Brown hoisted 28 shots at Kansas State and 26 versus Kansas, but showed more faith in his teammates against ISU and did a better job with shot selection.
“It’s great for him to draw people and kick out as opposed to forcing shots,” Barnes said.
When Brown couldn’t buy a bucket in the loss to Kansas on Saturday, Texas failed to find another option. On Tuesday, though, the entire team answered the call when it became clear Brown didn’t have his best.
“Guys stepped up and hit shots when they were open,” said senior forward Clint Chapman, who scored eight. “We talked about getting shots in our offense and we did that well.”
Brown is 18 of 70 from the field (26 percent) since scoring 34 points in a loss at Missouri on Jan. 14. If his shooting woes continue, the Longhorns will need efforts like these from the supporting cast to keep UT’s NCAA tournament hopes alive.
“We’ve got our leaders back,” Kabongo said confidently. “We have a bunch of great scorers on our team. We have other guys that can step up, and that’s the beauty of our team.”
The Longhorns are inching closer to becoming more than simply Brown and Co. Now, they’re becoming a team.