"We had opportunities at the end," head coach Rick Barnes said on his Longhorn Sports Network post-game interview, opportunities to overcome what he called "really bad turnovers from being young."
Barnes drew up the game's final play for Tucker, who last season as a true freshman went coast-to-coast to win a similarly tough contest at Providence. A year later and a continent and half an ocean to the west, the sophomore took the inbounds pass with 7.3 seconds on the clock at about three-quarters court, drove up the right sideline and then angled back to the middle of the court, was challenged near the three-point line and forced just inside the left side of the free throw line where he launched the potential equalizer. This time, it didn't fall and by the time he tracked down the long rebound, the buzzer had sounded on UT's first loss of the young season.
Tucker, though, had put Texas in position to win with his first bucket of the game at the 1:04 mark and a follow with 8 seconds to play that drew the Horns to within one, 81-80. Jeff Horner, who scored a game-high 27 points largely on long range bombs (six of 10 from beyond -- often well beyond -- the experimental 20-foot, six-inch arc), missed the first of two free throws to set up the final play.
Texas led by one at the half and opened up a six-point lead six minutes after the break only to have Iowa go on a 13-3 run to grab a four-point lead of its own. The Horns played from behind until Kenny Taylor tied it at 72 near the three-minute mark. After Tucker put Texas on top two minutes later at 78-76, Pierre Pierce nailed a 24-foot trey, three of his 18 points, to give the Hawkeyes a lead they would not relinquish.
Youngsters Daniel Gibson again showed flashes of brilliance along with some struggles while true frosh LaMarcus Aldridge simply struggled. True freshman point guard Gibson hit for a season-high 14 points and six assists, but he also reached a season-high in turnovers with five. Aldridge missed all three of his field goal attempts, got pushed around quite a bit in the paint, turned the ball over three times and had trouble all afternoon hanging on to the ball coming off the glass, totaling just three rebounds in 19 minutes.
Texas landed five players in double figures, led by Brad Buckman's career-high 18. The junior forward knocked down seven of 12 from the field, including two from downtown. He also pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds, one better than Tucker, on a day when the Horns struggled on the glass.
Taylor (15), Sydmill Harris (12) and Jason Klotz (11) joined Buckman and Gibson in UT's double-digit scoring club. Kenton Paulino and Tucker finished with four and Aldridge added two from the free throw line.
The Horns easily bested the Hawkeyes from the field, knocking down 46.7 percent overall and 47.8 percent from the arc vs. 39.4 percent and 37.5 percent, respectively, but Iowa played a more physical game according to Barnes. Both teams totaled 42 boards. Iowa out-shot Texas 66 attempts to 60. The Hawkeyes also went to the foul line 11 more times than the Horns, hitting 21 of 33 (63.6 percent), including nine of their final 10, to UT's 13 of 22 (59.1 percent).
"I like our team," Barnes said, "and in a couple more weeks we're going to be a really good basketball team. We're not there yet, but we're going to get there."
Texas (2-1) will face Tennessee (1-1), a 94-81 loser to North Carolina (2-1) in today's other winner's bracket game, Wednesday at 3 p.m. in a third-place game on ESPN2. Iowa (3-0) will get a chance to best a third-straight ranked opponent vs. the No. 12 Tar Heels in the tourney's championship game.