Iowa State may have too much ground to make up to win the Big 12 title, but as it progresses toward what will likely be a third straight trip to the NCAA tournament, it can play spoiler against teams still very much in the conference race.
The No. 17 Cyclones can avenge last month's loss at Texas and dull the 19th-ranked Longhorns' league title hopes with a win in Ames on Tuesday night.Texas (20-5, 9-3) is a game behind No. 8 Kansas for first place, while Iowa State (19-5, 7-5) would need a nearly flawless finish along with plenty of help for its first league championship since 2001."We're all playing for each other," said Texas center Cameron Ridley, who is third in the conference with 2.3 blocks per game. "We're playing for a Big 12 championship. Everybody on the team has the same goal, which is to win games, not anything selfish."The Cyclones looked like as strong of a contender as any in the conference with a 14-0 start, but they fell into a three-game losing streak Jan. 11-18 which was capped by an 86-76 defeat at Texas. For the Longhorns, the victory over then-No. 8 Iowa State was their first of four in a row against ranked opponents.Turnovers played a key role in Texas' 11th victory in the last 13 meetings, with the Longhorns forcing the Cyclones into a season-high 18 while committing only eight of their own. Iowa State hasn't committed more than 14 in any other contest.Texas forward Jonathan Holmes was 9 of 13 from the field with 23 points while the Cyclones' starting backcourt of DeAndre Kane and Naz Long was a combined 5 of 21 for 23 points. Kane matched a season worst with seven turnovers.Texas has won nine of 10, with the lone loss coming 74-57 at Kansas State on Feb. 8. The Longhorns, who had been 5-1 away from home, shot 32.7 percent while matching a season high with 18 turnovers and posting a season-low point total.They've responded with two of their three highest point totals of the season in back-to-back wins over Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Javan Felix, who was 3 of 12 with seven points against Kansas State, totaled 45 points in the last two victories while going 10 of 18 from 3-point range.His 18 points led five Longhorns in double figures in Saturday's 88-71 win over the Mountaineers. Holmes scored 11 after sitting out the previous game with a knee injury, and Texas matched a season best with 18 assists."It's one of the best games we've had moving the ball," said Demarcus Holland, who had 11 points and seven assists.Iowa State has won five of seven since losing to Texas, including a 3-1 record against ranked foes, but nearly squandered an 18-point second-half lead in Saturday's 70-64 victory over Texas Tech. The Cyclones were just 4 of 12 from the free-throw line in the second half."We just lost our minds for a stretch," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "For us to find a way to get it, even after they took the lead, is huge for us."Georges Niang and Kane each had 17 points with Kane adding nine assists.Melvin Ejim has just 19 points over two games since scoring 48 against TCU on Feb. 8. He leads the conference with 18.9 points per game.Iowa State is 12-1 at home with the only loss coming 77-70 to then-No. 15 Kansas on Jan. 13.