Texas hosts Iowa State to open Big 12 play

The #7 Texas Longhorns will begin Big 12 play on Saturday at 3pm in the Frank Erwin Center playing host to the Iowa State Cyclones. The Longhorns are looking to bounce back from Tuesday's loss at Arkansas as well as improve to 11-0 in Big 12 home openers under head coach Rick Barnes.

The #7 Texas Longhorns are looking to get well Saturday afternoon against the Iowa State Cyclones after Tuesday's loss to Arkansas in the closing minutes. As well as rebounding from a tough loss, getting Big 12 play started on the right foot is paramount against a team that is expected to finish near the bottom of the conference race.

The Cyclones, coached by Greg McDermott, enter Big 12 11-4 on the season winning their final tune-up 64-58 over Houston Baptist. Iowa State is led by one of the top young players in college basketball, sophomore forward Craig Brackins.

Brackins is one of the top offensive players in the Big 12 averaging 18.3 points per game as well as one of the top rebounders at 8.3 per game.

Brackins receives help from sophomore guard Dionte Garrett, who averages 10.7 points and 5.1 assists. Playing alongside Garrett on the perimeter are two capable three-point shooters Lucca Staiger and Bryan Peterson. The two have combined for 60 three-pointers at over 40%.

The Cyclones played a light non-conference schedule with losses coming at the hands of Hawaii on the road (60-59), Drake in Ames (66-63), at Iowa (73-57) and South Dakota State (65-58).

The Longhorns (11-3) enter conference play having played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country that includes wins over UCLA and Villanova.

For Texas, the health of Connor Atchley is going to be key to the level of success the Longhorns will enjoy in conference. Atchley missed Tuesday's game at Arkansas after receiving more than 30 stitches to his tongue after taking a hard hit against Appalachian State. That was the latest injury for the tough luck senior, who also had to be stitched up after the season opener after taking a hard hit to the chin.

Early reports have Atchley suiting up on Saturday and trying to give it a go. His ability to block and change shots on the interior as well as his ability to pull a big man away from the basket on the offensive end was sorely missed Tuesday night.

Only three teams have scored more than 70 points against Texas on the season and the Cyclones don't figure to make it four as they average just 67.6 points per game against a weak schedule.

The Longhorns and Cyclones have met 17 times previously with Texas holding a 9-8 edge. The single win advantage in the series came last season in a 71-65 overtime win in Ames by the Longhorns.

Texas is 7-3 against Iowa State in the Rick Barnes era.

The game is set to tip-off at 3pm and will be televised by the Big 12 sports network (or ESPN+ as it was called in recent years).

A Look at the Coaches

Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 460-230, including 258-96 at Texas. Barnes is 120-40 in Big 12 games at Texas.

Greg McDermott is in his third year at Iowa State and has a 40-38 record in Ames. His career record at the division one level is 130-101.

A Look at the Numbers

Texas shoots 44.2% from the field, 34.0% from three and 64.4% from the free-throw line.

The Cyclones convert 44.9% overall, 36.6% from the three-point line and 69.9% from the foul line.

The Longhorns surrender just 38.6% shooting and own a +6.0 rebound advantage.

Iowa State surrenders just 37.5% defensively and checks in with a +0.1 rebounding margin.

The Longhorns are committing 12.9 turnovers per game, while Iowa State is turning the ball over 12.7 times per contest.

The Longhorn Starters

G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (7.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists)

G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (18.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists)

F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (14.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals)

F Connor Atchley 6-11 Sr. (6.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks)

C Dexter Pittman 6-10 Jr. (9.1 points, 4.9 rebounds)

Key reserves include 6-6 sophomore Gary Johnson (10.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (3.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists), 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.8 points, 2.0 rebounds) and 6-0 sophomore Dogus Balbay (1.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists)

The Cyclone Starters

G Dionte Garrett 6-4 So. (10.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists)

G Bryan Peterson 6-1 Sr. (7.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists)

F Lucca Staiger 6-5 So. (8.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists)

F Craig Brackins 6-10 So. (18.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks)

C Justin Hamilton 6-11 Fr. (4.6 points, 2.9 rebounds)

Key reserves 6-10 senior Alex Thompson (3.4 points and 3.4 rebounds), 6-3 freshman Wes Eikmeier (4.9 points), 6-3 sophomore Charles Boozer (2.4 points) and 6-3 senior Sean Haluska (3.4 points).

Keys to the Game

There are two keys to this game that will make it very tough for the Cyclones to leave Austin with a win.

The first is rebounding the ball. The Cyclones aren't a very good rebounding team and that means Texas has the ability to limit the Cyclones to one shot with solid block outs as well as plenty of offensive rebound chances by the Longhorns.

Second is guarding the three-point line. Craig Brackins will very likely get his points over the course of the game. The Cyclone guards/wings Bryan Peterson and Lucca Staiger can't be given clean looks from deep. Iowa State struggles to score against quality man-to-man defense, but that doesn't mean the Horns can rotate off of Peterson and Staiger to help on Brackins. If Brackins get his points in a contested matter, fine, but don't allow Iowa State to get hot from three as well.

Dexter Pittman has a favorable matchup against freshman center Justin Hamilton. Hamilton is 6-11 and 250 pounds, but doesn't possess the ability to check Pittman on his own if Pittman will sit on his man, make a big target and go up quickly.

Texas must know where Dionte Garrett is in when a shot goes up. Garrett is a strong bodied, capable rebounder from his guard position.

When Brackins has the ball, play with the understanding that he will step out and shoot the three. He has eight makes at about 30% this year and a hand in the face is a win if Brackins wants to roam on the perimeter from time to time. The sophomore is a talented scorer with an array of moves. If he has a point blank opportunity, the Longhorns need to foul hard and force two free throw attempts as he converts just 64.2% on the season.

Iowa State is a well-coached team on the defensive end. They don't have a guard that can chase A.J. Abrams as Michigan State and Arkansas did, but the key is to keep the ball moving and use the quickness advantage Texas has. Swinging the ball from side to side will put a lot of pressure on Iowa State.

If the Cyclones are in zone, Texas just needs to keep attacking as they have this year and not become jump shot dependent. Gary Johnson is a weapon at the high post and Justin Mason has done a good job penetrating the zone this year. As long as the ball is moving and the high post is flashing with high/low looks available, Texas should be in good shape.

The defensive weakness of the Longhorns in non-conference play was transition defense. On Saturday, that won't likely be tested which will put Texas at their strength in man-to-man on more possessions. Iowa State will make the Longhorns defend deep into the shot clock making communication, sound rotations and team block outs key to limiting a below average offensive teams scoring chances.

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