Texas’ first chance to make a statement in its pursuit of an NCAA Tournament bid will come at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center.
Eight of the Longhorns’ final 14 games are against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 and the first of those games will be at home against No. 8 Iowa State (14-2, 2-2 Big 12).
“These conference games will be tough,” sophomore center Cameron Ridley said. “But we’re just going to treat those games just like every other. Play as hard as we can and play with the confidence we’ve been playing with.”
Despite what the two teams’ records might indicate, Texas (13-4, 2-2 Big 12) is likely the more confident team heading into the contest. The Longhorns go into Saturday on a two-game win streak, fresh off an impressive road victory over West Virginia in Morgantown, W. Va.
Head coach Rick Barnes’ veteran trio of Ridley, junior Jonathan Holmes and sophomore Javan Felix have all impressed early on in conference play, averaging 10.3, 10.8 and 15.8 points per game, respectively, through the first four games. Ridley and Holmes are also contributing in the rebounding department, each having already recorded a double-double and each averaging 7.3 rebounds per game in Big 12 play.
Iowa State, in contrast, enters the game on a two-game losing streak. After starting the season on a 14-game win streak, the Cyclones dropped their last two games, on the road against No. 25 Oklahoma and at home against No. 15 Kansas.
The Cyclones rely heavily on senior forward Melvin Ejim, who is second in the conference in scoring with 17.8 points per game. Ejim, the lanky Toronto native, is known as a physically gifted, inside-outside threat who can score from anywhere on the court. Couple him with do-it-all senior guard DeAndre Kane, who runs Iowa State’s offense, and you’ve got a potent scoring duo. Kane is averaging 16.8 points, 7.3 assists and 5.9 assists per game.
The Longhorns and Cyclones have two common opponents so far this season — they each played BYU in non-conference play, and they have each already taken on Oklahoma in conference play. With both teams having developed significantly since their respective meetings with the Cougars, a look at their respective contests against the Sooners is a much better representation of how the two teams match up.
Both Texas and Iowa State lost to Oklahoma. The Longhorns suffered a close 88-85 loss at home while the Cyclones lost 87–82 on the road in Norman. Both teams evidently struggled to slow down the Sooners’ scoring offense, but a closer look at the two games demonstrates where the scoring came from: second-chance points. Both Texas and Iowa State had better field goal percentages than Oklahoma in those matchups, but each team was heavily out-rebounded.
Regardless of their difference in ranking, the Cyclones and Longhorns appear to be very evenly matched on paper, so fans should be in for a good one at The Drum this weekend. It may not matter which group hits a greater percentage of their shots, but which team can corral more of the missed ones.