Isaiah Taylor

Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor led the Longhorns in points per game and assists per game last season and will be leading the charge for Shaka Smart’s new offensive and defensive schemes.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Shaka Smart’s to-do list got a little shorter Saturday night.

After weeks of speculation surrounding sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor’s future plans, Taylor announced late Saturday that he will return for his junior year and remain a key part of the Longhorns’ roster for Smart’s inaugural season.

“Glad to be a Longhorn! Feels good. Looking to get this new era started. Love the guys on the team. Spending another year with my teammates and coaching staff is a great feeling,” Taylor posted on his Instagram account Saturday.

Taylor continued working out with teammates and participating in team activities after the Longhorns’ season ended last month, even as rumors swirled that he would declare for the NBA Draft like his former teammate, Myles Turner. 

Taylor said his new relationship with Smart helped keep him in Austin. The 6-foot-1 guard had multiple conversations about his future with Smart after Texas’ season ended in March against Butler. Eventually, he decided staying another season was his best choice.

“When it all came down to it, I didn’t want to leave my teammates and not be a part of something I feel can be special,” Taylor said in a statement. 

Underclassmen had until the 10:59 p.m. Sunday to make their final choice on declaring for the draft. Taylor said he received a late first- or early second-round draft grade from NBA evaluators. He is also listed as the No. 27-ranked sophomore on DraftExpress. 

Taylor began the 2014-15 season with high hopes, but a wrist injury at the beginning of the year derailed his production. Despite the adversity, Taylor finished his sophomore campaign with a team-leading 13.1 points per game and 4.6 assists per game.

“Really excited about the opportunity to coach Isaiah next season,” Smart said in a statement. “We’ve had the chance to work out on the court several times over the past few weeks, and his commitment to improvement has been terrific. We are looking forward to Isaiah being a tremendous leader for our team!”

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Butler went ahead and ended Texas’ disappointing season Thursday afternoon, 5648.

And it was all too familiar for head coach Rick Barnes and company in college basketball’s biggest tournament.

Costly turnovers. Inefficient offense. Missed free throws in the clutch.

“At the end of the day, it was us executing more and finishing games,” junior guard Demarcus Holland said. “We’ve been in a lot of one and two possession games. We could have made that one play, could have changed the whole game. Obviously we fell short, and that sucks.”

In the midst of an ugly game, Texas found itself down 9 in the latter stages of the game. Just as the Longhorns have done many times this season, they clawed back — but not all the way.

Sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor then sliced and diced his way into the lane, cutting the deficit to 2 with plenty of time left.

Then he double-dribbled. Junior forward Connor Lammert missed the front end of a one-and-one. Taylor fouled Butler senior guard Alex Barlow, an 83 percent free-throw shooter.

“Plays like that at the end of the game — it pretty much sums up our year, to be quite honest,” Barnes said.

The struggles started early for the Longhorns, who, for the majority of the first half, couldn’t have played any worse. They turned the ball over eight times. They jacked up 10 threes, which is exactly what Butler’s packed-in defense wanted Texas to do. Quickly, Texas was down double-digits.

Then the lone scholarship senior, Jonathan Holmes, decided he wasn’t quite ready to call it a career.  

He halted Butler’s run with a pair of threes and a steal-and-score, sparking Texas as the first half came to a close. All of a sudden, the Longhorns found themselves down just 2 at half after a 90 run.

They carried that over to the second half, even grabbing a 2-point lead. But the Texas offense then reared its ugly head at the wrong time. It missed 11 straight shots and let Butler take control.

Butler was able to pack in its defense against the bigger Texas team, limiting its number of post touches.

“Well, people question our shooting,” Barnes said. “It’s hard to pass the ball in the air. There’s just not a lot of space there.”

When Texas settled for the open shot, it didn’t end up well. Texas shot just 34 percent for the game and only 31.6 percent from deep.

“That’s where we got to get better as a team,” Barnes said. “We got to shoot the ball better. We need to be able to stretch people out there more, and we haven’t been able to do that.”

Even with their poor shooting, the Longhorns still had a chance. The Bulldogs shot only 33.3 percent, but they knocked down 20 of their 28 free throws to add that extra bit of scoring Texas couldn’t find.

Holmes led the way for Texas with 15. Taylor added 14. Butler junior guard Kellen Dunham finished with a game-high 20 points and was the only Bulldog in double digits.

Butler advances to play Notre Dame on Saturday. 

Iowa State sophomore guard Monte Morris capped off a 12-0 run with a step-back jumper over Texas junior guard Demarcus Holland to give the Cyclones the 69-67 win in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals Thursday.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Texas had it in the bag.

And then, just like that, Iowa State’s Monte Morris’ step-back buzzer-beater sunk Texas and gave Iowa State the 69–67 win in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals Thursday.

“What an unbelievable game — still not sure how we won,” Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Monte Morris just made a heck of an individual play.”

Texas hadn’t trailed a single second of the game, leading by a comfortable margin throughout. But as the clock began to dwindle, so did Texas.

Junior forward Connor Lammert gave it right to Iowa State on an inbounds pass. Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor nonchalantly walked into a 10-second backcourt violation. And all of a sudden, with just over a minute left, Iowa State tied it up with a 10–0 run.

“It’s tough losing the way we did because just the turnovers in the last four minutes, really,” Texas head coach Rick Barnes said. “We made a few careless plays at the wrong time.”

Texas still had a chance, though. An offensive rebound gave Texas the opportunity to hold for the last shot as the score was knotted at 67, but, instead, junior guard Javan Felix cranked a three that clanked off the back rim and gave Iowa State the last chance.

“I can understand you would like to hold the ball there for that last shot if you could,” Barnes said. “But I could understand Javan shooting it with the rhythm he was into.”

The Cyclones made the most of their last opportunity. Morris, a sophomore guard, was isolated and hit a step-back jumper over junior guard Demarcus Holland as the buzzer went off to eliminate the Longhorns in the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Missouri. The Sprint Center, which was filled by Iowa State faithful, erupted.

“I tried as hard as I could to stop him from getting to the basket,” Holland said. “He made a great move; I tried to contest it, and he made the shot.”

The Longhorns beat Texas Tech on Wednesday night by pounding it inside in a second-half stretch that saw the Longhorns look as crisp as they have all season. But with Iowa State’s defensive player of the year, Jameel McKay, fronting Texas’ junior center Cameron Ridley nearly all game, Texas challenged Iowa State to a three-point shootout.

Texas fired up 22 from long range. Iowa State matched. Texas knocked down 10 of those. Iowa State matched.

Texas was able to build themselves a comfortable lead as Iowa State went ice-cold in the latter parts of the first half. From the 12:51 to the 3:06 mark, Iowa State missed 11 straight shots as Texas went on a 14–0 run to take control of the half and the game.

“It’s not very often we’re going to have a nine-minute scoring drought with what we have out there offensively,” Hoiberg said. “Give those guys a lot of credit.”

With a raucous crowd urging them on, Iowa State didn’t bend over. They fought and fought, cutting the lead many times. Texas found an answer each and every time — until the end.

“We played our hearts out,” Taylor said. “Our coaching staff put us in a great position to win a game.”

Senior forward Jonathan Holmes led Texas with 15 points. Taylor added 13. Felix poured in 10, all coming in the first half.

Iowa State was led by 24 from Morris and 22 from junior forward Georges Niang.

Now all Texas can do is wait until the NCAA Tournament selection committee determines its fate Sunday.

“We can’t really control anything right now,” Holland said. “We dropped one today that would have really helped us out a lot. I’m confident whatever tournament we got to, and, if we go to the Big Dance, that we will be a great team that can compete with anybody in the country.”

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Wednesday night’s win over Texas Tech probably got Texas into the field of 68.

A win over No. 13 Iowa State Thursday night at 6 p.m. would make that nearly certain. It could also help them avoid the possibility of playing in that “play-in” game as one of the last four teams in.

But there’s more to the conference tournament than positioning yourself for the “real” tournament. There’s a sense of pride. There’s a sense of want.

“I think we have a good chance to get into the tournament,” sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor said. “But that right now can’t be a focus. We’re looking to win the Big 12 Tournament.”

That run continues Thursday night against Fred Hoiberg and his second-seeded Cyclones that have given the seventh seeded Longhorns a tough time lately. Iowa State swept the season series with a pair of wins that were a lot more lopsided than the final scores indicated.

While many teams struggled to create offense against a Texas team with the fourth-best opponent field goal percentage in the country, Iowa State did not. The average against Texas is 36.7 percent; Iowa State shot over 50 percent. They put up 89 and 85 in the two meetings, carving apart the Texas zone and man defenses for easy twos and open threes.

“Iowa State is a great team,” Taylor said. “They can put a lot of points on the board and it’s our job when they go on 8-0 runs, 10-runs, whatever it is, we have to stay composed. If we stay composed, we have a good chance of winning.”

It’ll take a team effort to beat a balanced, consistent Iowa State attack, but if they Longhorns play as crisp as they did in the second half against Tech, you never know.

Texas was able to pound the ball inside and control the tempo of the game, something they struggled with all year. Barnes even acknowledged that that run may have been their most efficient basketball of the year.

“I think this team still hasn’t reached its potential yet,” Taylor said. “It was good to see our wings filling the lanes, Cam dunking and just being a defensive presence. We know we can do a lot of great things and that’s what we’re trying to do in this tournament.”

It’s not that uncommon to see a low-seed get hot and make a run in the Big 12 Tournament. Baylor as the seven-seed last year and on the bubble of the NCAA tournament went all the way to the Big 12 finals.

“We were in their situation last year,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said after the game against Texas last Monday. “It's not easy, and I think they deserve a lot of credit for just competing in the end, too.”

That run in the Big 12 tournament fueled a deep run in the NCAA tournament that saw them make the Sweet 16.

“We are looking to come to this tournament to compete and win as many games as possible,” Taylor said. “And potentially win the championship.”

The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Senior forward Jonathan Holmes shoots over three Baylor defenders in Texas’ overtime victory over Baylor. The Longhorns overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half. Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor made the winning shot on last-second floater.
Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

With Texas’ NCAA tournament hopes on the line, sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor showed up just in time to save the day.

As No. 14 Baylor built its lead and was staving off the Longhorns, Taylor was watching from the bench. Taylor played 40 minutes against Iowa State, 34 at Kansas, but a season-low 15 Monday night.

“It was my choice,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “He wasn’t doing what we needed him to do defensively is why he didn’t play.”

Instead, junior guards Javan Felix and Demarcus Holland led Texas back from a 10-point deficit late in the second half. But when sophomore guard Kendal Yancy came up limping in the first minute of overtime, Barnes was forced to go back to his star point guard — and he didn’t disappoint.

A baseline runner got him going, and a midcourt scuffle got him heated. His signature floater sealed a much-needed 61–59 overtime victory for Texas over Baylor.

“Give me the ball, and I’ll get the bucket,” Taylor said on the game-winner.

He scored 7 in the game, and 4 points in a hard-fought overtime in which he and his team struggled for a win.

Going after a loose ball with Baylor’s Taurean Prince midway through overtime, Taylor took an incidental elbow that busted open his lip and cleared the benches for a scuffle at the scorer’s table. Yancy, junior forward Connor Lammert and junior centers Prince Ibeh and Cameron Ridley were ejected for leaving the Texas bench. Three Baylor players faced the same penalty. No punches were thrown, meaning that no players will be facing any further discipline.

The Bears (22–8, 10–7 Big 12) led throughout and held a 10-point lead with less than seven minutes remaining as Baylor dominated Texas (18–12,7–10 Big 12). The Bears held a 46–30 rebounding advantage total and totaled 21 offensive boards.

“They out-rebounded us like crazy,” Holland said.

But Texas went on a 16–6 run to tie the game capped by senior forward Jonathan Holmes’ 3-pointer with just over a minute left.

Baylor had its chance late, though. Guard Kenny Cherry got a mismatch on Ibeh, got a step and went straight to the rim. Ibeh, charging hard, got back just in time to swat the layup attempt and save Texas’ season in regulation.

“You got Prince out there playing great defense,” Holland said. “He has great timing on blocking shots.”

Texas, with Taylor on the bench, then held the ball for the last shot of regulation. With seconds left, Holmes fired up a long, contested 3-pointer that never really had a chance. 

“I should have put [Taylor] back at the end of regulation,” Barnes said. “That was my fault. Glad it worked out.”

In overtime, Texas controlled the pace of the game, owning the lead for the majority of it. However, a 3-pointer by Baylor’s Royce O’Neale tied things up with just 1:19 remaining, and the score set the stage for Taylor’s dramatics.

“It gives us another breath,” Barnes said.

Texas will finish its season Saturday against Kansas State in another must-win.

“We fought for it; we earned it,” Felix said. “Now we got to focus on preparing for Saturday night’s game.”

While sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor had 17 points and eight assists to go along with six rebounds, a few errors in the final minute led to a loss for the Longhorns to Kansas on Saturday, 69-64. The Longhorns dropped to 17–12 on the season and 6–10 in conference play with the loss.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

With hopes of an NCAA tournament berth hanging in the balance, Texas men’s basketball came close to pulling off an improbable victory in college basketball’s toughest road venue Saturday.

But, as it almost always seems to do, No. 8 Kansas once again found a way to win in front of its home crowd. 

Now, with just two games remaining on the schedule, Texas finds itself in jeopardy of missing the tournament for the second time in three seasons.

The Longhorns will fight Monday to keep their postseason hopes alive when they return home to face Baylor, which handed them their worst loss of the season last month in Waco. For a chance at redemption versus the Bears, Texas will need to quickly put Saturday’s tough loss in Lawrence, Kansas behind it.

The Longhorns led well into the second half in the 69–64 loss to the Jayhawks, leading by as many as 6 points with under 10 minutes remaining. But Kansas got hot from the field and the free throw line late, closing the game out with a 16–10 run in the final 6:52 to ice the victory.

Kansas junior forward Perry Ellis was at the forefront of that second-half surge, scoring 12 points in the final 9:30 of the second half. He finished the game with 28 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. It marked the third consecutive 20-point game for Ellis, who has emerged as a front-runner for Big 12 Player of the Year.

Texas missed on a couple of opportunities late to tie the game. With Texas trailing 66–64 with 48.3 seconds remaining, sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor missed the front end of a one-and-one. Then, with the score the same and 6.1 seconds remaining, Taylor missed an off-balance layup attempt on a play in which he appeared to be fouled — though the referees didn’t call it.

Taylor led the Longhorns with 17 points and eight assists to go along with six rebounds, but the final minute didn’t go as hoped.

Despite Ellis’ impressive game, the Longhorns turned in one of their better defensive performances of the season. They held Kansas to just 36.2 percent shooting from the field and, remarkably, limited the sweet-shooting Jayhawks to just one made 3-pointer in eight attempts.

Texas’ interior defense was especially impressive. Freshman forward Myles Turner racked up five blocks in the game, while junior center Prince Ibeh had four. Texas had 14 blocks in the game.

With the victory, Kansas improved to a perfect 15–0 at home this season. The Jayhawks have now won 24 consecutive home games, and improved to a remarkable 189–9 at Allen Fieldhouse under head coach Bill Self.

The Longhorns dropped to 17–12 on the season and 6–10 in conference play with the loss. A victory would’ve greatly improved their résumé as they try to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament, and now, with just two games remaining, they’re very much on the bubble to make the Big Dance.

A win over Baylor might at least keep Texas in the discussion for a NCAA tournament berth. A loss at home to the Bears, however, would damage their postseason hopes even further.

With hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth hanging in the balance, Texas men’s basketball came close to pulling off an improbable victory in college basketball’s toughest road venue Saturday.

But, as it almost always seems to do, No. 8 Kansas once again found a way to win in front of its home crowd.

The Longhorns led well into the second half in the 69-64 loss to the Jayhawks, leading by as many as six points with under 10 minutes remaining. But Kansas got hot from the field and the free throw line late, closing the game out on a 16-10 run to ice the victory.

Junior forward Perry Ellis was at the forefront of that late surge, scoring 12 points in the final 9:30 of the second half. He finished the game with 28 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. It marked the third consecutive 20-point game for Ellis, who has emerged as a front-runner for Big 12 Player of the Year.

Texas missed out on a couple of opportunities to tie the game late. With Texas trailing 66-64 and 48.3 seconds remaining, sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor missed the front end of a one-and-one. Then, with the same score and 6.1 seconds remaining, Taylor missed an off-balance lay-up attempt on a play where he appeared to be fouled, but the referees didn’t call it.

Taylor led the Longhorns with 17 points and eight assists to go along with six rebounds, but he wasn't able to finish the game the way he hoped.

Despite Ellis’ impressive game, the Longhorns turned in one of their better defensive performances of the season. They held Kansas to just 36.2 percent shooting from the field and surprisingly limited the sweet-shooting Jayhawks to just one made three-pointer in eight attempts.

Texas’ interior defense was especially impressive. Freshman forward Myles Turner racked up five blocks in the game, while junior center Prince Ibeh had four. Texas as a whole had 14 blocks in the game.

The Jayhawks managed to overcome their struggles from the field with a strong day at the free throw line. They finished the game 26-of-32 from the line, where the Longhorns went just 12-of-18.

With the victory, Kansas improved to a perfect 15-0 at home this season. The Jayhawks have now won 24 consecutive road games, and they improved to a remarkable 189-9 at Allen Fieldhouse under head coach Bill Self.

The Longhorns dropped to 17-12 on the season and 6-10 in conference play with the loss. A victory would’ve greatly improved their resume as they try to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but now, with just two games remaining, they’re very much on the bubble to make the Big Dance.

They appeared close to finally earning a season-changing signature victory, but once again, they learned why many refer to Allen Fieldhouse as “the best home field advantage in sports.”

Sophomore guard Kendal Yancy more than doubled his previous career high with a 29-point outburst against Iowa State on Saturday. In his last three games, he’s scored 51 points.
Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

When sophomore guard Martez Walker left the University following multiple arrests in the fall, it was unclear how his minutes would be distributed among the backcourt.

Walker scored double figures in four of the last five contests of his freshman campaign, overcoming early-season struggles and demonstrating his potential value to the 2014–2015 squad. 

With his departure, there was a gaping hole in the Texas backcourt alongside sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor. Junior guard Demarcus Holland likely would have started but, while he is an elite defensive player, he does not have a scorer’s mentality. Junior guard Javan Felix, on the other hand, can score in bunches but struggles on the defensive end.

By default, Texas’ best hope for a complete guard rested in the maturation and development of sophomore Kendal Yancy. But could the guard who averaged only 3.4 points per game as a freshman take the necessary leap in production?

Early in the season the prognosis looked negative. 

When the 2K Classic concluded, he was only averaging 4.25 points per game while making less than 38 percent of his shots from the field.

However, because of injuries to both Taylor and Felix, Yancy was inserted into Texas’ starting lineup when it returned to Austin to face Saint Francis. His response was 12 points and six rebounds, tying his then career-highs in both.

In the win, Yancy attempted 10 shots. He wouldn’t match  that number again until setting a new career-high in points with 14 in a 74–71 overtime loss to Stanford. The performance was one of the most efficient efforts of his career. He finished with an effective field goal percentage of 65 percent and a true shooting percentage of 67 percent. 

Effective shooting percentage adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal, whereas true shooting percentage takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws.

Despite these efforts, the sophomore played less than eight minutes per game against Texas’ first eight conference opponents, scoring 1 point per contest.

Following concussions to
Felix in a loss at Baylor and to senior forward Jonathan Holmes in a loss to Oklahoma State, Yancy once again was thrust into the starting lineup and, this time, was determined to stay.

In wins over Kansas State, TCU and Texas Tech the sophomore did not produce very eye-popping numbers, but he appeared to be a positive presence on the floor. However, in losses to Oklahoma, Iowa State and West Virginia, Yancy asserted himself on the offensive end and did all he could to help out a team that struggled to hit baskets.

He scored a career-high 29 points against Iowa State— the most a Longhorn has scored in a game since Myck Kabongo dropped 31 points in Texas’ 22-point come-from-behind victory over Oklahoma in 2013. Perhaps even more impressively, Yancy sunk six threes in the loss — the same amount he hit during his entire freshman campaign. 

Yancy appears to be gaining confidence each and every game, and he is finally settling in as a threat when shooting the basketball. While his elevated play may not be quite enough to salvage the season, he could be setting himself up for a very productive junior season.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

For the second straight game, Texas spoiled a brilliant performance from sophomore guard Kendal Yancy.  

Saturday afternoon, Yancy poured in a career-high 29 points against No. 14 Iowa State — but behind an onslaught of Iowa State 3-pointers, Texas still managed to fall short in a crucial home contest, 85–77.

Texas (17–10, 6–8 Big 12), behind by a comfortable margin nearly the entirety of the second half, made a late run as it started fouling the Cyclones (20–6, 10–4 Big 12), sending them to the line for 29 free throws. Unfortunately for Texas, the late effort wasn’t enough.

“The last three minutes got into a foul shooting contest and watching Isaiah Taylor shoot layups,” Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Luckily, we made enough of ours.”

The Cyclones’ ability to pick apart the Texas zone was a defining element of the teams’ first matchup in late January, so this time around, head coach Rick Barnes showed a man-to-man look. The man defense kept Iowa State out of the lane, but the Cyclones felt at home from deep, where they lead the conference in 3-point percentage. Iowa State, led by sophomore guard Matt Thomas’ four makes, shot 57 percent from long range.

“We were finding guys on the outside, and they were knocking down open shots,” Cyclones senior guard Bryce Dejean-Jones said.

Although Texas dropped yet another crucial home conference game, Yancy’s recent play has been inspiring. Yancy connected on 6-of-9 from deep, was nearly perfect from the line and snared five rebounds. He did all this while committing just two turnovers. But playing so well in a game that resulted in a loss meant Yancy wasn’t in a celebratory mood after the game.

“It’s pretty tough,” Yancy said. “There’s not time to feel sorry for ourselves, but I feel sorry for my teammates because we played hard. We just got to stop this losing streak.”

In three of the last four games, and as senior forward Jonathan Holmes has continued to struggle, Yancy has been in double-figures and has become the Longhorns’ go-to man on the wing.

Since coming back from a concussion that sidelined him for two straight games, Holmes has been a nonfactor for a Texas team that needs him for this crucial part of the season. In Texas’ three games against Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Iowa State, Holmes scored just 12 points total on 4-of-19 shooting.

“I got to get better and improve and get back in rhythm,” Holmes said. “Stuff just is not going in right now; just got to get back to the basics.”

The matchup against Iowa State was sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor’s best game in conference play, according to Barnes. After playing the entire 40 minutes, Taylor ended with 23 points and seven assists. Most importantly, however, after turning the ball over four times in the first half, he had none the rest of the way.

“It’s hard to do what he did for 40 minutes,” Barnes said. “We need Javan [Felix] to help Isaiah, but he’s got to take care of the ball. We need Javan, Holmes and Cam [Ridley]. We need those guys. We really need those guys.”

Felix finished just 1-of-9 with two turnovers, while freshman forward Myles Turner and junior center Cam Ridley contributed for just 8 points combined from the post.

“I looked at Isaiah — dead tired,” Barnes said. “What it gets down to is that we need everybody. We need our post guys. It can’t just fall on [Isaiah]. Guys have to want the ball. Javan had a tough day, he really did.”

With just four conference games remaining, Barnes said he knows what Texas must do to get into the NCAA tournament.

“If you’re going to get there, you got to win,” Barnes said. “If we win, we’ll get there. If we don’t, we won’t.”

Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor led the Longhorns to victory against Kansas State in its vaunted “Octagon of Doom.”
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Despite its four-game losing streak, Texas marched into Kansas State’s lauded “Octagon of Doom” on Saturday and snagged a much-needed win.

Winning in Manhattan, Kansas, hasn’t come easy for the Longhorns. They lost the past four games at Bramlage Coliseum, which were often followed by chants of “We own Texas” from the stands.  

But Texas’ win at Kansas State this past weekend was big. 

After a surprisingly successful 2013–2014 campaign and the addition of freshman forward Myles Turner, the Longhorns were slated to dethrone Kansas from the Big 12 perch. Before the season, Texas was considered a national title contender, and the Longhorns lived up to expectations, starting off hot with a 10–1 record — the only loss coming at the hands of No. 1 Kentucky.

But since then, Texas has lost seven of its last 13 games. And after completing the first half of Big 12 play, Texas is far from the promised land.

However, the Longhorns should use the win against the Wildcats to as a springboard gain momentum as they head into the second half of conference play.

With a 4–6 record in the Big 12, The Longhorns currently rank eighth in the conference. Texas’ next two opponents are TCU and Texas Tech, who both have nine losses in the Big 12.

If the Longhorns find wins against the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders, Texas would be on a three-game winning streak and would have a conference record above .500. With a winning streak in hand, the Longhorns may gain the confidence they need to finish the season strong. 

“Confidence is still high,” sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor said. “We are still a good team. We still have good players on this team.”

But in order to turn its season around, Texas will need better play from Taylor. Taylor is averaging 14.5 points per game, but, at times, he still looks hesitant to make a move. The Longhorns got a lot out of Taylor in their win against Kansas State, but Texas needs him to play consistently as the season winds down.

With the next two games against weaker teams, Texas has an opportunity to get its season back on track. The Longhorns are far from where they hoped to be, but they can get close to their goal if they can build off their win against the Wildcats.

“We put it all together, and we can go on a run,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “It’s not about a run, though. It’s about tomorrow.”