- Jason King
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Quick thoughts from Texas' 71-65 victory over Iowa State.
Overview: Texas' streak of 13 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances under Rick Barnes may be extended another year. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but the Longhorns certainly have to feel much better about their chances of earning an at-large bid after defeating the No. 3-seeded Cyclones in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament at the Sprint Center. Texas, which improved to 20-12 overall, entered the game on the bubble. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi had Texas as one of his last teams in before Thursday's tipoff.
Just as he has countless times throughout his career, junior guard J'Covan Brown came through in the clutch. The conference's leading scorer broke a 65-65 tie by converting a three-point play with 36.3 seconds remaining. Iowa State turned it over on the other end, and Texas' Jonathan Holmes came up with the loose ball. Holmes was fouled and hit both free throws to make it 70-65. Iowa State had no chance after that.
Turning point: Texas trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half before going on a 26-8 run that was capped by Kabongo's deep 3-pointer with 11:12 remaining. The scoring march provided a huge jolt of momentum for Texas. Iowa State fought back and tied the game twice but could never take the lead.
Key player: Because of Texas' up-and-down season, Brown hasn't received the attention he deserves. He is one of the best pure scorers in the nation - and the fact that he's averaging 20 points a game on a team dominated by freshmen makes his success even more impressive, because he is the focal point of opposing defenses.
Key stat: Iowa State's biggest strength is its 3-point shooting. But the Cyclones were just 5-of-18 from beyond the arc Thursday.
Miscellaneous: Texas won despite playing without senior forward Alexis Wangmene, who is out for the season after breaking his wrist in Saturday's loss at Kansas. Wangmene averages just 4.6 points and 4.7 rebounds, but his energy and post presence was invaluable for the Longhorns.
What's next: Texas advances to play No. 2 seed Missouri in Friday's semifinal. The Longhorns lost twice to the Tigers this season, including a 67-66 defeat in Austin on Jan. 30. Iowa State's season is far from over, as the Cyclones are a lock to make the NCAA tournament. Fred Hoiberg's team is 22-10 and 12-6 in Big 12 play. Iowa State was 3-13 in conference games last season.