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.”