Texas hangs on to beat No. 14 North Carolina in Chapel Hill


Just about any preseason “hot seat” list included Texas head coach Rick Barnes, and with the change in athletic director on the “40 Acres” there was enough conversation to make one think that this season would be nothing more than a lengthy testimonial of sorts for the veteran coach. With just two upperclassmen, bouncing back from last season’s disappointing campaign looked to be a difficult task.

But the Longhorns entered Wednesday night’s game at No. 14 North Carolina with a 9-1 record, and thanks to their work on the boards and two big shots in crunch time from guard Javan Felix they were able to knock off the Tar Heels 86-83. Isaiah Taylor led four Texas players in double figures with 16 points, but Texas essentially won this game in two areas: on the boards, and when North Carolina went to the foul line.

Of Texas’ 51 rebounds 20 were of the offensive variety as they managed to rebound 42.6% of their missed shots. Jonathan Holmes and Connor Lammert, who finished with ten rebounds apiece, combined for 11 of those 20 offensive rebounds on the night. Texas outscored North Carolina 40-16 in the paint, an impressive margin when considering just how young Barnes’ team is.

And as the case was in North Carolina’s loss to Belmont last month, the Tar Heels left entirely too many points on the board at the charity stripe. The Tar Heels attempted 47 free throws, 14 more than Texas, but made just 24 of those shots. To have that kind of edge and only outscore your opponent by four points from the foul line will lead to a loss more times than not in close games, and that was certainly the case for North Carolina.

North Carolina has three high-caliber wins on their resume already, and Wednesday’s result is a reminder that for all the optimism that came as a result of their win over No. 11 Kentucky on Saturday there are still adjustments to be made. And, the Tar Heels aren’t talented enough to win games against quality opponents shooting as they did from the foul line or allowing teams to rebound more than 40% of their missed shots.

How good is Texas? Prior to Wednesday’s victory their best wins (computer-wise) were over Stephen F. Austin and Temple, and the Owls were busy being lit up by Texas Southern’s Aaric Murray in a one-point loss to the Tigers. So this clearly was a result the Longhorns needed as the start of Big 12 play approaches, and they’ll have many chances to pick up more quality wins given the strength of the conference.

Texas may have lost some talented players at the end of last season, but this current group has better chemistry and they play with more effort than a season ago. Will that be enough to get the Longhorns back to the NCAA tournament? That remains to be seen, but thanks to those changes Texas at the very least has a shot to do so. And that wasn’t something many people expected back in October.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.