Week by week, win by win, Texas keeps gaining confidence.
And the latest, an impressive victory over No. 8 Iowa State, has the Longhorns looking like a very dangerous team in the Big 12.
Jonathan Holmes scored 23 points and Cam Ridley had 16 points and 11 rebounds as Texas overpowered the struggling Cyclones 86-76 on Saturday.
It took Texas (14-4, 3-2) nearly a month to get its first Big 12 win last season, the program’s first losing season in 15 years. A 0-2 start in league play had the look of a similar dismal finish, but the Longhorns have now won three in a row.
“We feel we’re as good as anybody when we put our best on the floor,” Texas guard Javan Felix said.
The schedule will keep testing that with Kansas State, Baylor and Kansas in the next three games. But it’s clear Texas can make trouble for any team on the right day.
“I told our guys, ‘We’ll see how we handle it,'” Texas coach Rick Barnes said.
Felix scored 17, including a big 3-pointer in the momentum-changing run in the second half and a layup in the final minute that helped the Longhorns protect their lead. Texas also protected the ball as well as it has all season with just eight turnovers.
The Cyclones are headed in the opposite direction after a 14-0 start. Against Texas, the Iowa State (14-3, 2-3) struggled to find scoring when 3-pointers misfired and couldn’t match the physical presence of Holmes and Ridley in the second half.
Georges Niang scored 18 to lead Iowa State, which hadn’t lost three in a row since the 2010-11 season.
Melvin Ejim scored 17 for the Cyclones, who went 11 of 32 on 3-pointers. DeAndre Kane, who scored at least 20 in the previous three games, scored 15 against Texas and disappeared from the Cyclones’ offense for long stretches.
Iowa State, which shot just 39 percent, hasn’t won in Austin since 2005.
Iowa State appeared comfortable early behind 3-point shooting that built a 29-20 lead and threatened to blow the game open in the first half. But five straight turnovers helped Texas close the half with a 16-7 run. Felix’s catch-and-shoot 3-pointer tied it at 36-36.
“We couldn’t keep the momentum going because we couldn’t stop turning the ball over,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said.
AUSTIN (AP) Texas built a 51-44 lead over the first seven minutes of the second. The Cyclones committed four fouls in a 50-second stretch and Holmes made three straight baskets, two of them on putback layups after misses. Texas looked ready to put the game away when Ridley made a tough layup, then followed with a rim-shaking trailing dunk after a miss by Taylor.
“He’s a beast,” Hoiberg said of Ridley. “He was a tough matchup for us in terms of size and strength.”
Niang slowed Texas’ momentum with a trailing 3-pointer, before the Longhorns quickly grabbed it again. Felix made a 3-pointer and Holmes came up with two more big plays: a tip-in and a driving layup over two defenders that pushed the lead to 67-58 with 7 minutes to play.
“Jon is very skilled and that’s what we’ve tried to tell him,” Barnes said. “He can rebound, he can shoot.”
A basket by Ridley and free throws by Felix and Taylor built Texas’ lead as high as 75-61.
Iowa State slowly chipped away. Ejim pulled the Cylones within five at 76-71 on a long 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:29 left. Texas sealed the win with a fastbreak layup from Felix and clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch.
“Mentally, I think we’re the same,” as after the 0-2 start, Felix said. “We were still confident and we were still together. We never put our heads down.”