Texas basketball returns to the Moody Center on Tuesday night with momentum after a massive road victory over the weekend.
The Horns strolled into Fort Worth as a 4.5-point underdog and left with a decisive 77-66 victory over the then-25th-ranked Horned Frogs. It was a much-needed win after Texas opened the week with a heartbreaking overtime loss against No. 4 Houston.
After an inauspicious start to Big 12 play, Texas has reeled off three ranked wins in the last 16 days to put themselves squarely in the NCAA Tournament field just under six weeks before Selection Sunday. As we've learned by now, there is never an easy night in the Big 12.
The Longhorns close a stretch of six ranked opponents in six games when they welcome No. 14 Iowa State to Austin on Tuesday night. The game tips off at 7:00 PM CT and will be broadcast on Longhorn Network.
The Cyclones enter this battle with a 16-5 (5-3) record and have won three of their last four. They are coming off one of the most entertaining and unusual games of the year on Saturday in Waco, where Baylor head coach Scott Drew was ejected eight minutes into the second half.
Iowa State rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit and held a seven-point lead with under eight minutes to go, but a near half-court buzzer-beater was waved off after freshman forward Milan Momcilovic let go of the ball less than a half-second after the buzzer sounded.
The Cyclones will be extra motivated to avoid their first two-game losing streak of Big 12 play on Tuesday night.
Five keys to victory for Texas basketball vs. No. 14 Iowa State
1. Control the glass
In basketball, there is usually a direct correlation between the rebounding advantage and the game's outcome. For Texas, that has become incredibly magnified this season.is usually
The Longhorns are 11-1 this season when they out-rebound their opponent. In four Big 12 wins, they are a combined +28 on the glass. In five conference losses, the Horns are a -25. Their two most recent contests were directly dictated by the disparity on the glass: -11 in a loss to Houston and +16 in a win at TCU.
It is paramount that Texas brings the right attitude and effort into the Moody Center on Tuesday night if they want to win the rebounding battle. The Cyclones are a top-five team on the offensive boards in the conference and get rebounding buy-in from all five spots on the floor.
2. Contain Tamin Lipsey
Tamin Lipsey is one of the most underrated guards in the country.
The sophomore guard is averaging 13.6 points, 5.6 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game this season. He plays well above his years, though his production has dipped when he leaves the confines of Hilton Colosseum.
According to Evan Miya's Bayesian Performance Rating, which measures the overall value a player brings when he is on the floor, Lipsey is the ninth most valuable player in college basketball.
He is the ignition of the Cyclone's offense and a player Coach Terry, and his staff must key in on for a full 40 minutes.
3. Avoid costly turnovers
Iowa State is one of the most effective teams in the country at forcing turnovers. Coach Terry said as much during his Monday afternoon press conference.
They are No. 1 in the country in both forced turnover percentage (26.3 percent) and steal percentage (16.0%). To think that Cyclone opponents turn the ball over on more than a fourth of their possessions is pretty mind-boggling to think about.
For Texas, taking care of the ball has been a problem all season.
The Horns are eighth in the Big 12 at 11.8 turnovers per game. You would think with a veteran backcourt, Texas would not have issues protecting the ball. That has not been the case, with Max Abmas and Tyrese Hunter averaging 2.4 and 2.9 turnovers per game, respectively.
It is paramount that Texas maximizes each possession it gets against a defensive-minded Iowa State team.
4. Knock down the three-ball
This might seem obvious, but the one weakness in the Iowa State defense has been contesting beyond the arc.
The Cyclones rank dead last in the Big 12 in three-point attempt percentage. 48 percent of field goal attempts Iowa State gives up are from three, and opponents are cashing them in at a 35.9 percent clip.
In their five losses this season, Cyclone opponents have averaged 10.4 three-point makes on 27 attempts (38.5 percent). This game could be where guys like Brock Cunningham and Ithiel Horton become very valuable on the wings.
5. Dillon Mitchell continues his upward trajectory
Dillon Mitchell returned to school to improve his draft stock. While he will likely never be an elite outside threat, his tenacity and activity on the glass will make him a valuable asset in the NBA.
Mitchell leads the Longhorns in rebounds per game (8.8), is third in blocks (1.0), fourth in points (11.0), and fourth in assists (1.6).
He is coming off back-to-back double-doubles (16 & 10 vs Houston, 13 &11 at TCU), and whether it be via an offensive putback or a breakaway slam, he has always seemed to spark Texas when they need it most.
As his midrange game continues to develop, look for Mitchell to be one of the most important players on this roster during the stretch run.