The fans inside Hilton Coliseum exploded with a roar when the three went in. Iowa State guard Lindell Wigginton stood up and turned toward a buzzing red and gold crowd, while a frustrated Dylan Osetkowski looked at his teammates for an explanation for what had happened.
In a back-and-forth affair that featured runs by both teams all afternoon, it was Wigginton who provided the game’s most significant shot. His three and free throw after an Osetkowski foul sparked an 11-0 Cyclone run with less than five minutes left.
After claiming an eight-point lead during that stretch, Iowa State never let up, defeating the Longhorns 65-60 on Saturday afternoon.
“Whenever we get a lead, we want to keep it,” Iowa State guard Talen Horton-Tucker said. “When that little run came, we felt like we were always going to win.”
Iowa State’s scoring bonanza down the stretch came after the Longhorns claimed their first lead of the afternoon with seven minutes left in the game. Guard Matt Coleman helped spur the comeback with five consecutive points that gifted the lead.
But shortly after, the Longhorn defense fell apart. For the first 34 minutes of the ball game, Texas played at an exceptional level at that end of the floor and gave up only 45 points to the Big 12’s most potent scoring offense.
The Cyclones then started to hit tough shots against Texas’ 2-3 zone defense. And even when the Longhorns tried to switch to a man look, it proved futile. The Cyclones went on to score 20 points in the final five minutes of the game.
“I thought we had enough energy to go do what we needed to down the stretch, but we just didn't play enough defense,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “I think the way we defended for the first 34 or so minutes — that’s a recipe for winning on the road. But then to give up 20 in the last six minutes, that obviously isn’t going to get it done.”
Despite the defensive woes, the Longhorns still had a chance in the game’s closing minutes. After back-to-back transition threes from guards Courtney Ramey and Kerwin Roach II, the lead was cut to five. A pair of free throws and a put-back layup from center Jaxson Hayes cut it to only one a couple minutes later.
Although Iowa State guard Nick Weiler-Babb hit a jumper one possession later to increase the lead again, Texas still had a chance with less than a minute remaining in the game.
But when Coleman missed a contested runner going to his left, and the Cyclones responded with a two-point dagger at the other end, the lead proved too much for the Longhorns to overcome.
“The biggest thing was keeping the ball in front,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “They got to the point — fortunately he missed. You got to trust your players there, but (forward Cameron Lard) bumps and makes a big time play.”
Saturday’s loss marks a missed opportunity for the Longhorns, who had the opportunity to significantly add to their NCAA Tournament résumé with a victory.
While there’s been an emphasis from Shaka Smart to close out games and execute the small details when it matters most, one thought about Texas remains: It may simply not have the consistency to earn the wins it needs to in order to reach the Big Dance.