College Basketball Nation: Alexis Wangmene

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.

Brown had a game-high 23 points for Texas while point guard Myck Kabongo added 11. Royce White had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Cyclones.

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.

Wednesday night observations

January, 28, 2010
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaBilal Dixon and Providence had reason to celebrate after an 81-66 win against UConn.
Something I didn’t think I would see: Providence ahead of Connecticut in the Big East standings. PC is 4-4, UConn is 3-4.

How about this quote from PC coach Keno Davis: “We can beat anybody in the country. We have enough talent, but we have to play extremely hard.’’ I’m not sure I’m buying that proclamation, but it’s good to know Davis has that much confidence in his crew.

UConn’s win over Texas was as impressive a W as we’ve seen this season. But I knew if Connecticut was an elite team the Huskies had to win a game on the road that they’re supposed to -- and they didn’t. It’s odd looking at the Big East standings and seeing UConn ranked No. 19 yet in 11th place in the league.

  • Not sure there was as impressive a road performance in the SEC (save Kentucky winning at Florida) as Vanderbilt’s win at Tennessee. The Commodores got spirited production out of Jermaine Beal (25 points) and held the Vols to 6-of-20 on 3s. Vandy goes into Kentucky on Saturday with a chance to actually build a two-game lead on the Cats. Huh?

  • No one should fault BYU for losing at New Mexico, 76-72. The Pit is and will be one of the toughest places in the country to play, and I can tell you from years covering the Lobos that there is no opponent that gets the place as amped as the Cougars. BYU remains the MWC favorite even with the loss to the Lobos. But UNM desperately needed the win to stay in the race.

  • Memphis coach Josh Pastner picked up a quality road W by winning at Marshall to keep the Tigers in the C-USA league race.

  • Villanova’s 18-1 record and 8-0 mark in the Big East after beating Notre Dame is as impressive as any in the country. But the Wildcats' schedule is back-loaded with road games at Syracuse, Georgetown and West Virginia that will be tough to tackle.

  • Duke won again at Cameron. I just don’t see the Blue Devils losing at home. So that’s eight ACC wins right there. The Devils have already won at Clemson. So that’s nine. Pick up at least two road wins out of BC, Miami or Virginia (don’t see UNC or Maryland) and the Blue Devils will likely win the league with 11 wins. That’s unless Maryland decides to string together a bunch of road wins.

  • Florida is winning the games it should at home now with a 79-63 win over Georgia to move to 4-2 and move closer to an NCAA berth after two NIT years.

  • Drexel snuffed out Northeastern’s win streak at 11 (which was the third-longest in the country) with an impressive 61-48 win on the road.

  • Hard to generate buzz for William & Mary now after the Tribe lost to James Madison by a deuce to fall to 6-4 in the CAA.

  • Hard not to cheer for Oklahoma State to beat Texas A&M on Wednesday, the ninth anniversary of the tragic plane crash that killed 10 people associated with the program. OSU beat the Aggies to move ahead of them in the standings at 4-2 (A&M is 3-3).

  • What has happened to LSU’s offense? The Tigers led Alabama at the break, but scored just 13 points in the second half. Tasmin Mitchell and Bo Spencer were a combined 4-of-18 in the 57-38 loss at Alabama. The defending SEC champs are now 0-6 in league play.

  • Believe it or not, Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins had an eight-point play in the Pride's 93-54 win over UNC Wilmington. He scored on a layup and was fouled. But it was ruled an intentional foul and then Wilmington’s Benny Moss got a technical for arguing. Jenkins hit all four free throws (two for the intentional and two for the technical) and then Hofstra got the ball because of the intentional foul and Jenkins scored off the inbound pass with a floater. In five seconds, the score went from 26-9 to 34-9. Wow.

Longhorns looking for right combination

January, 23, 2010
STORRS, Conn. -- Texas’ mid-season slump that began with a late win over Texas A&M and has culminated with consecutive losses at Kansas State and Connecticut may force coach Rick Barnes to do something he didn’t anticipate weeks ago: cut down the rotation.

[+] EnlargeRick Barnes
David Butler II/US PresswireTexas coach Rick Barnes said he may need to shorten his bench.
Texas played 12 players in the 88-74 loss to Connecticut as he searched for the right combination.

Center Dexter Pittman got into foul trouble (he fouled out in 15 minutes), as did Dogus Balbay (four fouls in 19 minutes). But outside of Gary Johnson and Jordan Hamilton the bench was ineffective.

“I might have to,’’ Barnes said of trimming the rotation down. “A lot of guys got a chance but I’m going to have to think long and hard if guys aren’t doing it.’’

Clint Chapman, Matt Hill, Alexis Wangmene all played under 10 minutes and produced four boards and two points. Clearly, Barnes will go with Jai Lucas as a backup to Balbay and Johnson and Hamilton have to play because of their talent and productivity. But J’Covan Brown was 0-for-5 shooting including 0-for-3 on 3s and offered little in 12 minutes off the bench.

Texas’ depth has been a selling point for this squad but it’s starting to seem like the rotation is getting unwieldy for a team that needs to focus a bit more when pressured and pushed.

Barnes said he was searching for the right combinations. But he also said Avery Bradley can’t play 36 minutes a game (he played 29). He said Bradley told him he was as tired as he’s ever been after the Kansas State game Monday. He said he has to maximize minutes for James, too, who can’t get worked too long. Of course Pittman has to give the Longhorns more than 15 minutes for Texas to be a title contender.

For Texas to be a title team the Longhorns may have to lock in on a rotation of James, Pittman, Bradley, Balbay, Justin Mason, Johnson, Hamilton, a bit of Lucas and maybe some Brown. But the latter may have to play in spots.

“We’ll be fine if we stay with the right attitude and they want to listen,’’ Barnes said.

What upset him more than anything was the Longhorns’ lack of offensive execution and their inability to defend on the transition. Barnes said he didn’t think the Longhorns’ poise was an issue but rather execution.

“We can guard better than that,’’ Barnes said. “We’ve been great defensively for the most part this year.’’

Texas won’t catch a break at home with Oklahoma State coming off a road win at Kansas State and then Baylor, which nearly clipped Kansas on the road.

“We’ll get back on a roll,’’ James said. “I know this team. Maybe we needed to get back down to reality. We’ll bounce back. I promise you.’’