Thursday night, Brown might have just spun the Texas Longhorns into the NCAA Tournament. Facing a tie game with 36.3 seconds left, Brown twirled into the lane, converting a whirling shot as he was fouled. He hit the free throw, giving Texas a 68-65 lead it wouldn't relinquish. The Longhorns went on to beat Iowa State 71-65, sending Texas to the Big 12 semifinals against Missouri, and likely punching the Longhorns' ticket to the Big Dance.
In a game full of runs and big plays, Iowa State shot out to the first real advantage at 28-19 with two minutes left in the first half. But Texas closed on a 6-1 run to keep the game at a respectable four-point difference heading into halftime, despite shooting just 10-of-38 from the field.
In the second half, the Longhorns' shots started falling. After Iowa State stretched the lead out to 11 points, Texas went on a 24-6 run, taking a 51-44 advantage and seemingly capturing all the momentum. The Longhorns led by eight at 55-47 when Scott Christopherson hit a three and Percy Gibson converted a free throw, and the contest was within one-to-two baskets the rest of the way.
Chris Babb finally tied things back up at 59 on a pair of free throws with 4:39 left, before Clint Chapman regained a two-point lead with two free throws of his own. A jumper from Brown and a layup from Brown put the Longhorns up 65-59 and seemed to put the Longhorns on their way. But Chris Allen got a layup of his own, and after a block from Babb, Allen fed Gibson for another layup and a 65-63 scoreline.
That set up Cyclone star Royce White for his big opportunity. White muscled a tough shot off the backboard and in to tie the contest at 65-all with 52 seconds left.
But Brown had one more big play in him, driving into the lane, spinning and knocking the shot through while he was fouled by Christopherson.
"Coach called top, and I came up and Chap had a good screen and the 3 ball wasn't there," Brown said. "So I drove left, three whole dribbles, and when I felt him on my side, and I had to spin it, and I did. And Christopherson came over and fouled me. I knew I had to get it on the rim, and it was a good play call by Coach, really."
Iowa State didn't score, then fouled Jonathan Holmes, who knocked down both free throws. And Allen lost the ball off his foot on the Cyclones' next possession, with Kabongo adding on more free throw for insurance.
Brown ended up with a game-high 23 points. Myck Kabongo had 11 points, five assists, two steals and no turnovers. Chapman had 10 points, eight rebounds and two steals.
White had 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Christopherson, Gibson and Melvin Ejim each had 10 for the Cyclones.
With the Longhorns trailing at halftime, and likely needing a win to be assured an NCAA berth, Texas coach Rick Barnes asked the team where it would like to spend the postseason.
"Let's just say we are on the bubble," Barnes recalled saying. "Now if I write down NIT or NCAA, which one would you put your name under? Which one? Whichever one you want, you have to earn it."
Thursday night, the Longhorns (20-12) did just that, coming back and arranging for a third showdown with Missouri, the league's second-best team. That semifinal will be the second one played on Friday, and is slated for 9 p.m."I told our guys right after the game that I've coached a lot of basketball games and we've had a lot of different teams, but I'm not sure we're any more proud of the effort these guys gave tonight," Barnes said.
Iowa State (22-10) was likely already in the NCAA Tournament, and will find out its destination on Sunday.