Sitting directly on the fringe of the NCAA Tournament bracket, 7-seed Texas’ lead over 10-seed Iowa State stood at just two points. As less than a minute remained on the clock in Kansas City, the Longhorns needed a hero to salvage their season and boost their tournament hopes.
Freshman point guard Matt Coleman, just 20 years old, didn’t shy away from the Big 12’s greatest stage. The lefty took control of the last possession, gathered his dribble and launched a long 2-pointer from the top of the key. The ball flew over the outstretched arm of Iowa State’s senior point guard Donovan Jackson and journeyed straight for the cylinder.
Coleman’s clutch basket played a huge role in Texas’ 68–64 hard-fought victory over the Cyclones. As a result of the team’s third win over Iowa State this year, Texas (19–13) punches a ticket to the second round of the Big 12 tournament on Thursday.
“I’ve been saying it all year — every team in the Big 12, you’re going to get a dogfight night in and night out,” junior power forward Dylan Osetkowski said.
Despite two previous victories over the Cyclones this season, Texas’ third rendezvous with Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm, and his team wasn’t exactly a breeze for the Longhorns. Playing a third-straight game without freshman center Mo Bamba, Texas struggled out of the gate, trailing the Big 12’s last-place finisher by as much as 10 points in the first half.
But the Longhorns’ leading scorer, Osetkowski, spurred a 16–3 run to change the outlook of the evening. Osetkowski chipped in 10 points, including two 3-pointers, during the momentum-shifting run, all resulting in a 34–31 lead at halftime for Texas.
“We knew we were going to have to fight,” Osetkowski said. “We knew they were going to make some shots, they’ve got great players and we’d just have to sustain their run and make a run of our own.”
Coming out of the break, the Longhorns surged while the Cyclones temporarily faltered. Sophomore shooting guard Jacob Young brought energy and quickness off the bench, scoring on a handful of layups to extend Texas’ advantage to 40–31.
But the Texas defense couldn’t sustain its level of excellence from the final minutes of the first half and the opening frame of the second. The Longhorns yielded seven straight points, and Iowa State continued to roar back until claiming a 45–44 lead with 12:47 remaining.
Iowa State’s baskets were primarily generated from layups and other close baskets around the hoop. The Longhorns lacked size to clog the paint without Bamba as its rim protector, and the Cyclones exposed this element of Texas’ tight rotation.
But similar to the win over West Virginia, 3-point shooting saved the day for the Longhorns. Freshman shooting guard Jase Febres canned a pair of threes in the later portion of the second half, and Osetkowski pulled up for a near-NBA range triple with 5:30 left. The long field goal provided Texas a 58–56 edge. Although Iowa State tied the score on the ensuing possession, Texas did not relinquish the lead.
A rejuvenated defense and an energized Jericho Sims were the final deciding factors in the Longhorns’ narrow win. The freshman power forward was the catalyst of a vital play with under 100 seconds left, collecting an offensive rebound off of an Osetkowski miss and cashing it in for two points to claim a two-possession lead. Then, Coleman provided the closing duties.
Besting Iowa State will extend Texas’ season to another game — a third matchup against 2-seed Texas Tech, currently No. 14 in the nation. The Longhorns skated to a nine-point victory over the Red Raiders on Jan. 17 but lost on an overtime buzzer beater to them on Jan. 31. Tournament hopes appear safe for now, but Texas head coach Shaka Smart and his team can greater convince the selection committee by advancing further in Kansas City.