Scouting Texas: Cyclones look to bounce back in Austin

Texas Longhorns guard Tyrese Hunter (4) is guarded by Houston guard L.J. Cryer (4) during the basketball game at the Moody Center on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024 in Austin. © Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

No. 14 Iowa State (16-5, 5-3) will make the trip to Austin, Texas to face the Texas Longhorns (15-7, 4-5) on Tuesday night (7:00 p.m., LHN).

The Cyclones left Waco Saturday with a 70-68 loss to Baylor after Iowa State forward Milan Momcilovic’s banked in three-pointer was waved off at the buzzer.

About the Longhorns
Texas coach Rodney Terry inherited the program last year after it parted ways with Chris Beard. After taking over, Terry led the Longhorns to a 22-8 record which included a Big 12 Tournament Championship and a run to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament.

Texas has struggled slightly, so far this year. At 4-5 in Big 12 play, and 15-7 overall, the Longhorns currently sit in eighth place in the Big 12 standings. This is the start of a two-game home stand for the team.

Oral Roberts transfer Max Abmas is amongst the NCAA’s all-time leading scorers, coming in at No. 13 all-time in college hoops with nine regular season games remaining in his fifth season. The 6-foot-0 point guard is a scoring threat from anywhere on the court. His 17.9 points per game ranks third in the conference in scoring. Whoever takes the challenge of guarding Abmas on Tuesday night will try to limit the space they give him to shoot.

Terry brings back a trio of players from last season, including former Iowa State point guard Tyrese Hunter. The junior guard pairs nicely with the addition of Abmas in the backcourt. Hunter is averaging a career-high 11.4 points per game along with 2.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. Both Hunter and Abmas are the two main three-point threats on the offensive end. Iowa State has struggled to defend the three this season, so limiting their shooting is a major priority for the Cyclones.

The other key returners, Dillon Mitchell and Dylan Disu were both Preseason Honorable Mention All-Big 12 forwards, as well.

The 6-foot-9 graduate senior in Disu is the only major size Texas has in the frontcourt. Disu is an inside-out player who thrives in the mid-post area on offense. He is averaging 15.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. Iowa State’s no middle defense will help contain Disu on the low block and free throw line area.

Heartbreak Hotel for the Cyclones in Waco
Iowa State needed around 0.2 of a second more to escape Baylor with a win. In another chaotic game, the game had ejections, technical fouls, inadvertent clock stoppages, and much more.

One of the keys for Iowa State to defeat Baylor on Saturday was defending the three-point line. The Bears went 12-23 from three at a 52.2 percent clip. The Cyclones couldn’t get out to Baylor’s shooters and contest at a high level. When the Bears did miss a shot, they were able to get the offensive rebound more often than not. Baylor collected 13 offensive rebounds, most of which came in the first half.

The other issue for Iowa State on Saturday was free-throw shooting. The Cyclones went 19-32 from the line, only shooting 59.4 percent. In the last four games, the team has shot 8-13 (61.5%), 15-23 (65.2%), 9-18 (50.0%), and 19-32 (59.4%). It is becoming a theme that this team struggles at the free-throw line.

There is some solace to be had in the fact that they are getting to the free-throw line. In T.J. Otzelberger’s first two seasons at Iowa State, the Cyclones have ranked in the lower half of the Big 12 in free-throw attempts per game. The team needs to keep getting to the line and knock them down.

Key stretch upcoming for the Cyclones
Even with the loss at Baylor, the Cyclones’ metrics are up and chance for a regular season Big 12 title is still intact. In the KenPom rankings, the Cyclones moved up a spot from 15 to 14, now ranking No. 50 in adjusted offense and No. 5 in the country in adjusted defense.

Iowa State has a key stretch of games coming up, playing Texas before heading back to Ames to play TCU on Saturday inside Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones go back to the road in a week to face Cincinnati on Tuesday. This trio of games are each against unranked teams, but like any game in the Big 12, it will be a tough task and could make for some big wins, if all goes according to plan.