Isaiah Taylor

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Texas guard Taylor hires agent, will remain in NBA Draft

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Texas became considerably less experienced at the point guard position Thursday, as junior Isaiah Taylor announced that he has decided to hire an agent and remain in the 2016 NBA Draft pool. This past season Taylor averaged 15.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in his lone season playing for head coach Shaka Smart.

The Longhorns also lost senior Javan Felix from their perimeter rotation, but there is some young talent at Smart’s disposal as he looks to build on this season’s trip to the NCAA tournament.

Kendal Yancy will be a senior next season, with Kerwin Roach, Tevin Mack and Eric Davis Jr. all being sophomore. And in addition to that quartet of returnees the Longhorns add freshmen Andrew Jones and Jacob Young. Texas will have to account for the experience lost due to Taylor’s departure, but the cupboard isn’t bare either.

Taylor put together his best season under Smart, with his averages increasing as did his percentages from the field (42.0 percent) and from three (31.1 percent). DraftExpress.com has Taylor ranked 13th amongst college juniors, and he was projected to be a second round pick in next year’s draft.

Niang, Morris lead No. 14 Iowa State past No. 24 Texas

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After falling at Texas Tech for the second straight season midweek, No. 14 Iowa State needed to bounce back with No. 24 Texas visiting Hilton Coliseum. The return of Jameel McKay, who was suspended for two games, certainly helped the Cyclones and the play of Georges Niang and Monte Morris was key as well. But the biggest difference on this night was the fact that Iowa State was able to limit the effectiveness of Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor.

 

Taylor scored just nine points on 3-for-14 shooting from the field, and with Morris and Niang scoring 24 points apiece the Cyclones won by the final score of 85-75.

Taylor had multiple opportunities to make plays around the basket thanks to his ability to beat defenders off the bounce, but he struggled to finish. Add in a 0-for-4 night from three, and Texas’ most dangerous offensive option was unable to duplicate his performance in the first meeting between the two teams. In Texas’ 94-91 overtime win over the Cyclones January 12, Taylor scored 28 points and dished out six assists with just one turnover, shooting 11-for-17 from the field.

Four Longhorns finished in double figures, with Tevin Mack and Javan Felix scoring 18 apiece, but with Morris decisively winning the point guard matchup Texas was unable to pick up the win on the road.

For Iowa State the aforementioned tandem of Morris and Niang performed as they did in the first meeting, which should come as no surprise. What helped them, especially when it came to Texas attacking the basket, was the presence of McKay. McKay finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 22 minutes of action, and to have their best interior defender back on the floor certainly helped the Cyclones on this night.

With their lack of depth Iowa State’s margin for error is small, especially when it comes to foul trouble, injuries and disciplinary reasons. Even with Texas’ size advantage Iowa State outscored them in the paint 48-34, and McKay’s defensive ability factored into that. The Cyclones can put points on the board with the best of them, but at some point they’ll need to string together stops as the games get even bigger.

Iowa State managed to do that down the stretch, with Morris and Niang running the show offensively. And that’s a good formula to be able to rely upon as the season approaches its most important month.

Texas throws wrench into Big 12 race, beats No. 6 West Virginia

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With No. 6 West Virginia convincingly beating No. 3 Kansas last week and losing to No. 1 Oklahoma on a Khadeem Lattin tip-in with less than five seconds remaining, Bob Huggins’ team rightfully moved up in the national polls released Monday. But Wednesday night’s home game against Texas served as a reminder of what can happen to “Press Virginia” when they aren’t forcing turnovers and can’t make free throws.

Shaka Smart’s team took good care of the ball throughout, committing just eight turnovers, and West Virginia managed to shoot just 8-for-23 from the foul line. Add in a 31.1 percent shooting night from the field, and the end result for the Mountaineers was a 56-49 home defeat few saw coming.

Of all the players on the court Texas senior Javan Felix was the only one who could put together a respectable night offensively, as he scored a game-high 17 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the field and 7-for-8 from the foul line. As important was the fact that he and fellow guard Isaiah Taylor combined to commit just one turnover, quite the achievement when considering what West Virginia is capable of doing with its full-court pressure.

The lack of live-ball turnovers kept West Virginia from getting scoring opportunities in the open floor, and as a result the Longhorns were able to force the Mountaineers to find (and make) shots in the half-court. WVU couldn’t make those shots, shooting 3-for-21 from three, and despite rebounding 47.1 percent of their misses (24 offensive boards) the Mountaineers produced just 14 second-chance points.

These kind of offensive nights were always the concern regarding West Virginia, even with players such as Jevon Carter and Jaysean Paige stepping forward at various points into the “shot-maker” role held by Juwan Staten in each of the two seasons prior. Texas took away the “easy” shots by taking care of the basketball, and the end result was a quality win for a team that’s already beaten the likes of No. 2 North Carolina and No. 19 Iowa State.

After loss to Texas, is it time to be worried about No. 17 Iowa State?

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The Big 12 sure did provide us with some action last night, didn’t it?

It started with No. 11 West Virginia who knocked off No. 1 Kansas for the third straight time in Morgantown, showing off that ‘Press Virginia’ brand en route to a court storm, an awesome rendition of ‘Country Roads’ and another $25k in the pocket of head coach Bobby Huggins.

The Mountaineers, believe it or not, currently sit all alone in first place of a conference that includes the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in college basketball.

Incredible, isn’t it?

But it got better from there, as No. 17 Iowa State went down to Austin and took a loss to a Texas team that has proven to be anything but consistent at this point in the season. They’ve now beaten the Cyclones and North Carolina this season. They’ve also lost at Texas Tech and TCU. The Longhorns have some talent on their roster — Isaiah Taylor is out here looking like a young Chris Paul; he had 28 points, six assists and six boards last night — but they’re also currently playing without Cameron Ridley, who was one of the best centers in the conference.

Winning on the road in league play is never an easy thing to do, particularly when you’re a team that is so reliant on youth and unproven pieces. The only surprise in Texas winning games at home and losing them on the road is that the Erwin Center is not exactly known for being raucous building. There’s a reason we don’t call it ‘Erwin Magic’.

That said, Shaka’s got his guys playing hard, and right now they’re trending in the direction of an NCAA tournament bid. There’s still quite a bit of work to be done — nine of the last 14 regular season games that Texas will play are against teams currently in the top 25, with five of those nine coming on the road — but the frame work is there for the Longhorns to make a run at it.

The more interesting side of this story may actually be Iowa State.

Is it time to be worried about this team? I say yes, for one major reasons: They don’t guard.

We’ve always known that the Cyclones aren’t a team that was built around defensive prowess — Fred Hoiberg was not exactly Tony Bennett — but this is as bad as it’s been since the Cyclones have been good. They’re currently 124th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and they’ve given up 188 points in their last two games at a rate of 1.14 PPP, which is not the kind of number that a team with real Big 12 title aspirations.

And, for the record, the Cyclones are probably out of the running in terms of the Big 12 title race at this point. They’re 1-3 in the league right now and they still have to play Oklahoma, Kansas twice, West Virginia twice and pay a visit to Baylor. To be frank, the loss at Texas probably didn’t hurt them as much as the home loss to Baylor on Saturday did; in a race that is going to be as tight at the top as the Big 12, you cannot drop home games and expect to come out with a regular season title.

KenPom right now is projecting Iowa State to finished the regular season at 8-10 in the league, which, given a non-conference résumé that includes a win over Iowa, a win at Cincinnati and a loss to Northern Iowa, would probably have them closer to the bubble than anyone in Ames would feel comfortable with. That honestly seems a bit drastic to me; there’s no way that Iowa State remains this porous on the defensive end of the floor.

But as of now, it’s time to readjust our expectations for just what to expect out of the Cyclones this season.

Texas upsets No. 17 Iowa State 94-91 in OT

(AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Isaiah Taylor scored 28 points, including five in overtime, and Texas upset No. 17 Iowa State 94-91 on Tuesday night.

Tevin Mack and Eric Davis scored 14 points each for the Longhorns, and Javan Felix added 13. Texas made 13 3-pointers in the game.

Georges Niang led Iowa State with 27 points, including 19 after halftime, but he missed a guarded 3-point attempt as the game ended. Monte Morris scored 17 points for the Cyclones and Deonte Burton had 14.

Niang picked up his third foul with 16:10 remaining. He left the game with Iowa State (12-4, 1-3 Big 12) trailing by 10 points. When he returned less than 3 minutes later, the Cyclones were down by 13. He scored nine points in the next 6 minutes to rally Iowa State, and when Morris and Abdel Nader made consecutive baskets, they found themselves tied at 79 with 4 minutes remaining.

Taylor and Connor Lammert responded with 3-pointers for Texas (10-6, 2-2), but Niang scored four points, and Morris added two, and the score was tied again, this time with 1:09 left.

Taylor made a spinning shot with his off hand, the left, with 37 seconds left, but Niang matched it 9 seconds later, and the game went to overtime.

The Longhorns finished the first half with a 16-2 run to take a 49-38 lead. They converted 9 of 18 3-point attempts in the half with Mack making three, including two during the final 1:38.

Texas converted three Iowa State turnovers into layups during that run. Taylor made two of the layups, both on fast breaks, and scored 14 points in the half.

The Longhorns’ aggression during that push produced a passion on which they retrieved three missed shots before Kendal Yancy finally hit with their fourth attempt, a 3-pointer.

Iowa State was no slouch, either, on 3-pointers, hitting 5 of 10.

TIP-INS

Iowa State: The Cyclones had a four-game winning streak against Texas snapped. Forward Jameel McKay made five dunks in the first half, taking advantage of the Longhorns’ inability to prevent Cyclones guards from penetrating the lane and passing to him. He made one more dunk in the second half.

Texas: Forward/guard Jordan Barnett, a sophomore who has played in only four games this season, will transfer to another school, a team spokesman said. Barnett did not indicate where he will land on the rebound. With Barnett gone, and starting center Cameron Ridley out indefinitely with a broken foot, the Longhorns have 10 scholarship players available, three fewer than the NCAA limit.

UP NEXT

Iowa State: Hosts Kansas State on Saturday.

Texas: Hosts Oklahoma State on Saturday

WEEKLY AWARDS: Wes Washpun leads UNI, and Ohio State’s big game

(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Wes Washpun, Northern Iowa

For the second time this season, the Panthers have landed a win over a top five team. In November, they beat then-No. 1 North Carolina. On Saturday, they knocked off No. 5 Iowa State. No one in all of college basketball has two wins that are as good as those two wins, and given that the Panthers don’t have any horrid losses on their résumé, this win more or less locks up an at-large bid as long as UNI does the things they’re supposed to do in Missouri Valley play.

The star of the show this weekend was Washpun, who finished with 28 points, 11 assists and seven boards. The scouting report on Iowa State at this point is pretty easy to figure out: they are not great defensively and struggle to contain penetration. Washpun exposed them, and while he was helped by the fact that UNI went 13-for-22 from beyond the arc, it doesn’t change how dominant he was on Saturday.

THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • Brice Johnson, North Carolina: It’s been two games since North Carolina lost Kennedy Meeks to a knee injury and Johnson is doing his best to make sure that the Tar Heels don’t miss him. In wins over Tulane and No. 22 UCLA, Johnson averaged 26.0 points and 9.5 boards while shooting 22-for-29 from the floor.
  • Kahlil Felder, Oakland: Felder had 38 points, nine assists and six boards as the Grizzlies knocked off Washington in Seattle on Saturday. He’s now averaging 25.9 points and 8.9 assists on the season.
  • Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga: The good news: Sabonis played his best game as a collegian in a win over Tennessee on Saturday, finishing with 36 points and 16 boards. The bad news: The Zags needed every one of those points and rebounds in a close win over Tennessee.
  • Cat Barber, N.C. State: The 33 points, seven boards and four assists that Barber had in a win over Missouri on Saturday was his second-best game of the week. He also had 26 points, six boards, five assists and the game-winning, buzzer-beating jumper to beat High Point.
  • Isaiah Taylor, Texas: The 12 points and seven assists that Taylor had in a win over Appalachian State was nice and all, but it was the 26-point, six-assist homecoming performance in which he hid a game-winning floater to beat Stanford in Palo Alto that got Taylor on this list.
  • BENCH: London Perrantes (Virginia), Roosevelt Jones (Butler), Troy Williams (Indiana), Ryan Anderson (Arizona), Stefan Moody (Ole Miss)
Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Ohio State’s Jae’Sean Tate (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State was dead in the water this season. They had already lost at home to UT-Arlington and Louisiana Tech. They lost in overtime against Memphis. They fell at UConn by 20 points in a game that wasn’t even that competitive. They’re young, they lack leadership at the point guard spot, they don’t have a go-to scorer or a low-post presence, they don’t defend. Through the season’s first 10 games, Ohio State was 5-5 and, more than anything, proving to the world just how much better D’Angelo Russell made the players around him.

And then on Saturday, at the Barclays Center, Ohio State came out and whipped up on No. 4 Kentucky. They led by 16 points in the second half. Kentucky made a run when Jamal Murray caught fire, but the Buckeyes were able to hold them off, in the process landing the kind of marquee win that can be the difference between the NIT and the right side of the bubble.

Will Thad Matta’s crew be able to get a bid?

It’s way too early to make any kind of declarations like that, but the bottom line is that a young, inexperienced team get themselves a shot of confidence that they desperately needed.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Utah: Utah made a statement on Saturday in New York, as they knocked off No. 7 Duke despite the fact that they spent much of the second half playing without Jakob Poeltl, who was in foul trouble all game long. The Utes have been a bit inconsistent this season — that loss at Wichita State doesn’t look great today — but if this wins shows us anything, it’s that this group is capable of being pretty good.
  • Virginia: The ‘Hoos knocked off No. 12 Villanova in Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon in yet another sterling, late-game performance from London Perrantes. This team is not as good defensively as they have been in recent years, but are they actually the most dangerous offensive in college basketball? They may be.
  • Butler: Purdue entered the weekend undefeated, looking like the nation’s best defensive team and a real Big Ten contender, and the Bulldogs beat them in impressive fashion at the Crossroads Classic despite getting an 0-for-12 shooting performance from leading scorer Kellen Dunham.
  • Monmouth: The latest Monmouth victims? Georgetown and Rutgers, who joined UCLA, USC and Notre Dame.
  • Texas A&M: The Aggies beat the brakes off of No. 16 Baylor on Saturday. The final score was 80-61, but at one point, Billy Kennedy’s club was up 62-35. It was a mismatch. A&M might actually be the best team in the SEC as of today. Think about that.
  • Indiana: The most important ten minutes of Indiana’s season came on Saturday as the Hoosiers erased a 16-point deficit against Notre Dame. Indiana beat the Irish with their defense, which is not something that has been said before this season.

SET YOUR DVR

  • No. 19 Louisville at No. 4 Kentucky, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
  • No. 10 Xavier at Wake Forest, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
  • No. 5 Iowa State at No. 23 Cincinnati, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
  • Vanderbilt at No. 9 Purdue, Tue. 8:00 p.m.
  • Cal at No. 8 Virginia, Tue. 9:00 p.m.