By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
What: Iowa State (14-5, 4-2) at Texas (12-7, 2-4)
When: Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 8 p.m.
Where: The Erwin Center in Austin, Texas
TV: The Longhorn Network (not available in Iowa)
After nearly knocking off Kansas on the road a week and a half ago, Jayhawk head coach Bill Self said that Iowa State was the hardest team that they’ve had to guard all season long. Kansas had previously played the likes of North Carolina, Duke and Ohio State.
That’s a mighty fine compliment.
After a 24-point home loss to Iowa State on Saturday, Texas Tech head coach Bill Gillispie referred to the third place Cyclones as a "matchup nightmare."
Six games into the Big 12 season, Iowa State is 2-1 away from Hilton Coliseum. The one loss could have gone the other way, as Iowa State blew a double-digit second half lead vs. Kansas in the historic Allen Fieldhouse.
Sure – This Iowa State team does create major matchup problems for the opposition. After all, there aren’t many 6-foot-8, 270-pound point guards like Royce White roaming the college basketball scene.
But rebounding has been the key to Iowa State’s success on the road so far. In the three Big 12 road games, the Cyclones have out-rebounded their opposition by + 16 (combined).
If this trend continues this evening in Austin, the Cyclones should have a decent opportunity to start it’s conference campaign with a 5-2 record with an opportunity to sit alone at third place in the Big 12 Conference heading into Saturday’s nationally televised home showdown with Kansas.
“I like the fact that these guys embrace the challenge of going on the road," said head coach Fred Hoiberg regarding his team’s impressive road rebounding numbers. "If you go down there and get pounded on the glass in another team’s hostile environment, you’re not going to have much of a chance to win the game.”
Iowa State defeated Texas 77-71 just 17 days ago. What’s going to go down this evening in Austin?
Let’s break it down.
Iowa State’s probable starters:
G: Chris Allen, 6-3 Sr. – 12.6 PPG, 2.7 APG
G: Scott Christopherson, 6-2 Sr. – 11.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG
G: Chris Babb, 6-4 Jr. – 9.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG
F: Melvin Ejim, 6-6 So. – 7.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG
F: Royce White, 6-8 So. 13.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG
Texas’ probable starters:
G: Myck Kabongo, 6-1 Fr. – 9.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG
G: J’Covan Brown, 6-1 Jr. – 19.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG
G: Julien Lewis, 6-3 Fr. – 7.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG
F/C: Clint Chapman, 6-10 Sr. – 6.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG
F/C: Alexis Wangmene, 6-7 Sr. – 4.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG
BREAKING DOWN THE CYCLONES
McGee’s World: He was the forgotten newcomer.
Heading into the season, Iowa State’s four transfers grabbed all of the headlines and probably rightfully so. But what about Tyrus McGee?
“He was my number one target last year," said Hoiberg. "I went and watched him in junior college and fell in love with the kid. More than his shooting was just how hard that he played. You could see that. That is going to translate.”
McGee, the reigning Big 12 Rookie of the Week, has been brilliant in Iowa State’s last two games. The junior parlayed a 17 point performance against Oklahoma State and dropped 20 on Texas Tech, hitting six 3-pointers along the way.
“To see him grow, continue to get better and wanting to watch extra film and always getting in extra shots, I’m really happy for the kid and he’s going to continue to get better and better," said Hoiberg.
McGee’s greatest asset doesn’t show up in the box score. He’s a leader on this basketball team. That’s a characteristic that goes a long way.
“It’s something that we need on this team," sad Hoiberg. "We’re a pretty quiet group for the most part. Tyrus is the guy who is always out there talking, whether things are going really good or if things are going really bad.”
Last time vs. UT: It wasn’t long ago, but here’s a refresher to course from the first time that these two teams tangled on Jan. 4.
Junior Chris Babb led the Cyclones in scoring with 17 points. Royce White, Chris Allen, Scott Christopherson and Anthony Booker all ended the evening in double figures.
It was one of only four games this season in which Iowa State was out-rebounded by its opponent. The Longhorns got the best of the Cyclones by a 38-29 margin on the glass.
Texas’ stud guard, junior J’Covan Brown scored 19 points in only 25 minutes before going down with an ankle injury. Big man Clint Chapman also scored 19 points for Texas, going 7-of-9 from the field.
Fred Hoiberg on his team’s practicing habits…
“These last few weeks, our focus and attention to small detail has been off of the charts.”
Fred Hoiberg on playing Texas the second time…
“They are a better team than they were a few weeks ago but I think that we are a better team than we were a few weeks ago.”
BREAKING DOWN THE LONGHORNS
The young Longhorns have gone 2-3 since losing to Iowa State on Jan. 4. The two wins were at home against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
Texas gave the Big 12’s best, Kansas, everything that they wanted and more on Saturday in a 69-66 loss. J’Covan Brown put up 26 shots in that game, converting on seven and scoring 24 points in 37 minutes.
“I was very impressed with Texas’ performance vs. Kansas on Saturday," said Hoiberg. "They had great energy and intensity and gave Kansas all that they could handle. They had a lead in the final minute and Kansas made a couple of big time plays down the stretch to beat them."
Longhorn to watch: J’Covan Brown is obviously Texas’ stud, but Clint Chapman is the guy who has me concerned from an Iowa State perspective. Chapman, a 6-foot-10 senior had his 19-point performance against the Cyclones in the first meeting. Chapman dropped 15 on Kansas last Saturday and so far this season, big men have had their way against the Cyclones. Case and point: Robert Lewandowski’s 20 points for Texas Tech on Saturday.
Here’s the deal though. If Iowa State can limit Brown and Sheldon McClellan, Chapman alone will not beat the Cyclones. I’d take that scenario.
Also keep an eye on McClellan. Assuming that Iowa State’s ace defender Chris Babb will match up against Brown, that leaves McClellan, who’s scored 19 and 11 points in his last two games, in an opportunity to play the Tyshawn Taylor role tonight for the Longhorns.
Who will Hoiberg match up with Texas’ second and third guards?
Key to a Cyclone victory: Rebounding. If the Cyclones defeat the Longhorns on the glass, Iowa State’s chances to win this game will increase dramatically.
Texas is 11-1 at home this year. Their one loss was to one the best teams in college basketball, Kansas.
Hoiberg is right. Texas is better than they were when these two teams tangled in early January. But so are the Cyclones.
I love the way that Iowa State plays on the road. So far this season, the Cyclones have played smarter basketball on the road than they do at home.
To be honest, had J’Covan Brown not gotten hurt in the second half on Jan. 4, I think that Texas would have beaten Iowa State in Ames. But I also think that the Cyclones will play better tonight than they did in the Big 12 opener.
Texas has lost three straight. The Cyclones have won two straight and need at the very least one of two this week against the Longhorns and Kansas.
Royce White has to stay out of foul trouble tonight. If that happens, I think that Iowa State can win.
Still, Iowa State is a seven point underdog. KenPom.com only gives the Cyclones a 26 percent chance to win this thing.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Iowa State will compete and have a shot to win this game in the final minutes. I’m picking Texas to win but let me say this. Should the Cyclones pull of their third straight road win in the state of Texas, it’s game on from here on out.
Texas 73, Iowa State 69