March 8, 2012
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Rick Barnes has believed all along that Texas is safely in the NCAA tournament. That didn't stop him from playing a psychological trick on his team during an impassioned halftime speech Thursday night.
The Longhorns were struggling against No. 25 Iowa State, and Barnes told them deep inside the Sprint Center to make their choice: the NIT or the NCAA tournament. They could make their decision over the final 20 minutes, effectively taking it out of the hands of a committee holed up in a board room.
"Let's just say we are on the bubble," Barnes recalled saying. "Now if I write down NIT or NCAA, which one would you put your name under? Which one? Whichever one you want, you have to earn it."
They certainly did.
Texas rallied from a big second-half deficit before J'Covan Brown converted a go-ahead three-point play with 36.3 seconds left, lifting the Longhorns to a 71-65 victory in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals.
Texas will face fifth-ranked Missouri on Friday night for a spot in the championship.
Brown finished with 23 points for the Longhorns (20-12), who reached the 20-win plateau for the 13th consecutive season and just maybe ensured another streak would remain intact: The school has gone to 13 straight NCAA tournaments, tied for fourth-most behind Kansas, Duke and Michigan State.
"Tournament time is always a great time," Brown said. "The crowd, I think we only had a couple fans, and they had a great amount of fans. We love that, to walk into a gym and quiet their fans. We just tried to give it our all for 40 minutes."
Royce White had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Cyclones (22-10), and it was his turnaround bank shot with 51.6 seconds left that tied it 65. But after Brown was fouled on a spinning jumper and made the free throw, White lost control of the ball with 22.9 seconds left.
It wound up in the hands of the Longhorns' Jonathan Holmes, who made both free throws for a 70-65 lead. The Cyclones turned it over again on their next possession to seal the outcome.
"It means nothing. My performance was not good enough," said White, who was voted the league's top newcomer. "It just wasn't good enough."
Myck Kabongo added 11 points and Clint Champman had 10 for Texas, which trailed by 11 early in the second half before embarking on a 22-4 run to flip the script. Then it came down to which team could make the clutch plays, and Brown was able to deliver for Texas.
The Cyclones, who most believe are squarely in the dance, haven't won a Big 12 tournament game since 2005. They've dropped seven straight, four of them at the Sprint Center.
"It's disappointing to go out in the first round down here, especially all the fans we had in attendance," Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They made big plays. I thought we put our heads down as a team, and then we regrouped and found a way to get back in the game.
"They made plays down the stretch and we didn't."
Indeed, it seemed like the old days for Iowa State for a while.
Fans carried Hilton Magic down I-35 during the early years of the Big 12 tournament, turning the old Kemper Arena into a homecourt advantage. Sprint Center felt a bit like that against Texas, with red- and yellow-clad fans filling the place for the day session and then filing right back in at night.
They announced their presence as Iowa State seized a 28-19 lead late in the first half behind balanced scoring up and down the lineup, and really grew to a roar when the lead swelled to 40-29 on Scott Christopherson's jumper by with 17:10 remaining in the game.
"I did get upset because we started the half by taking a quick shot, and then we threw it out of bounds. It was our offense," Barnes said. "All year we've guarded."
Well, the offense finally started clicking.
Kabongo and Julien Lewis combined for an 11-0 run that was part of a larger 22-4 stretch in which that 11-point deficit turned into a 51-44 lead. Brown knocked down a couple of shots, but mostly he played the distributor to teammates who at times have gone missing this season.
Texas still led 55-47 when the Cyclones clawed back, tying it at 59 on a pair of foul shots by Chris Allen with 4:39 left. The Longhorns answered with six straight points, four of them on jumpers by Brown, and maintained a comfy cushion with 2:35 left in the game.
Iowa State rallied one more time, getting a basket from Allen and another from Percy Gibson to pull within 65-63. White managed to get the Cyclones even, but Brown was there to answer for the Longhorns, and Texas took control in the closing seconds.
"We've got one more chance to go out and make a run and do something," Hoiberg said, "and hopefully we'll be better next time."
·Texas now holds a 21-15 overall record in 16 appearances at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship and a 42-34 all-time record in league tournament games.
·Texas has reached the semifinal round at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in 11 of its 14 trips under Rick Barnes
·Texas records its 20th win of the season, marking the 13th consecutive season the Longhorns have recorded 20 wins or more.
·Texas trailed 40-29 in the second half before opening up a 22-4 run over a 6:25 span (from 17:13 to 10:48) to take a 51-44 lead with 10:48 remaining in the game. Texas never trailed again.
·This marked Texas' seventh win this season that came after trailing at halftime.
·Texas recorded a season-low six turnovers.
·Texas outscored the Cyclones in points-off-turnovers, 19-5.
·Texas' 46 second-half points marked the most points in a second half for the Horns since Feb. 11, when Texas scored 48 points in the second half at home against Kansas State. Texas' field-goal shooting improved dramatically in the second half. UT shot 26.3% from the field in the first half and recovered to shoot 50% (15-of-30) from the field in the second half.
·Texas completed 18-of-24 free throws (75%), marking the 14th game this season the Longhorns have shot 75% or better from the charity stripe.
· Scored 20 points or more (game-high 23 points) for the 18th game this season and 26th game of his career
· Reached double figures in scoring for the 30th game this season and the 63rd game in his career
· Tied his career high in steals (two)
· Reached double figures in scoring (10 points) for the eighth game of his career (all this season)
· With his eight rebounds in tonight's game, he averaged nine rebounds in three games this season against the Cyclones.
· Reached double figures in scoring (11 points) for the 19th time in 32 games this season
· With his five assists tonight, he has recorded at least five assists in 19 of 32 games this season
· Tied his career high in rebounds (seven)
THE MODERATOR: We're ready to begin with the Texas Longhorns and Coach Rick Barnes. The student-athletes are Myck Kabongo, J'Covan Brown, and Clint Chapman.
Coach, your thoughts on tonight's Texas victory.
COACH BARNES: I told our guys right after the game that I've coached a lot of basketball games and we've had a lot of different teams, but I'm not sure we're any more proud of the effort these guys gave tonight.
They really -- from the start to the finish, they just really did a tremendous job in what we're trying to get done and really proud of the fact we only had six turnovers.
But defensively we fought. And I thought we stayed with our game plan from start to finish better than any point the entire year.
But just really proud of the effort. I thought not just these three guys, but everybody. It's a great team win, and I'm just really proud of them.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. You've said before that crazy things happen when you spin, but did you have a bigger spin move than you had in the last 30 seconds? Can you go through that play and what you were thinking?
J'Covan Brown: Coach called top, and I came up and Chap had a good screen and the 3 ball wasn't there. So I drove left, three whole dribbles, and when I felt him on my side, and I had to spin it, and I did. And Christopherson came over and fouled me. I knew I had to get it on the rim, and it was a good play call by Coach, really.
Q. Myck, seemed like you did a good job controlling the offense today. Talk about how well and how the game slowed down for you today.
Myck Kabongo: Coming into this game, the biggest thing has been pace. Coach has been preaching to me about pace and pacing myself throughout the whole game. And that's all I try to do, just pace myself at the whole game. My job is to run the team and get us into stuff, and that's what I tried to do tonight for our team to win.
Q. Myck, when you were running in the second half, felt like you got in the lane almost seven or eight possessions in a row. Was that purposeful? Was it something you talked about at halftime and helped you get in a run?
Myck Kabongo: No, the biggest thing is spacing. When you have good spacing on the court when you're playing basketball, it opens up things. My teammates opened up things and we opened up gaps for us to drive. That's the biggest thing. We came into this game thinking it was driving gaps and trying to get in there, and it was open because of our spacing.
Q. J'Covan, are you saying the first option could have been a 3 on that play?
J'Covan Brown: Just whatever defense is giving me. Could have had closed the gate on me, you know, quick. He's a great defender. That's what great defenders are going to do, make you do your second option.
He gave me a lane, able to drive left. When I took it, he cut me off and I just spun. And just tried to go make a play. And I had to. And just give credit to that.
Q. Myck, it seems like all of us, all we ever want to talk about is how young you guys are. Tonight did you guys feel you have really matured from the beginning of the season? Was tonight a statement that you guys are ready to take that on?
Myck Kabongo: Not young no more. When we came back from the break, that's when we had to -- we've grown up. We've shown strides, every single one of us, the six freshmen. It goes to the help we got from our older players, guys like Chap, Lex and J.B. that's on us every day and they don't cut us any slack.
So a big part of us growing up is to those guys that pushed us every day.
Q. Clint, 27 minutes, have you ever played a harder 27 minutes, particularly in terms of what you had to do defensively against White?
Clint Chapman: I really don't think so. Obviously a great player. There's so much he can do with the ball that obviously there's a lot you gotta be ready for. And I think the last time I played that much that hard was the last game up in Iowa. So I don't think so.
Q. J'Covan, not to veer away from this game, but looking ahead to tomorrow night, can you tell us a little bit what you see from Marcus Denmon and what he brings?
J'Covan Brown: He's a great scorer, not just a shooter. He can put it on the ground, 1-2 dribble, shoot it, get to the rim. He's a versatile player. But we're going to go out there and guard everybody, the shooters, because that's what they do. They're catch and shoot. They try to beat you in transition to get going.
So we're just going to watch film when we played them home and when they was home and just go from there.
Q. J'Covan, how would you describe the intensity of this game with everything that was on the line, and what effect did that have on your team?
J'Covan Brown: Tournament time is always a great thing to play in. The crowd, I think we only had like a couple of fans. But they had a great amount of fans.
You love to walk into other gyms and quiet their fans. So we just went out there, just gave it our all for 40 minutes, like Coach said. He never gave up on us. So we didn't. It really starts with Coach.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Good part of the second half you were using four guards. Was that fouls or just wanting to maybe get a quickness advantage?
COACH BARNES: Well, it was fouls, some of it, and it was a hard physical game, and we knew we may have to do that obviously with Lex being down. And we did a good job with it. And once we got it going a little bit when we spread it open there, that's really when we got the lead.
And actually in the first half I think they kind of sized down to us a little bit. And Fred has done a great job with this team. They missed some shots around -- we missed some, we missed a lot of shots early, too. But overall we have worked on that a little bit, and I think it helped us tonight.
Q. Rick, did these guys grow up a little bit tonight?
COACH BARNES: You know, I thought it was the best. And you look at there's a lot of things that we did tonight really from start to finish in terms of staying with our game plan, we did. We really did.
And I thought Myck -- again, I'm really proud of him. I talked to him a lot about understanding the situations, and he came running over to me in the last minute and he said, Coach, let's get Jaylen in the game so we can switch everything.
I told him after the game of all the things he's done this year, I said, I'm telling you, you're heading in the right direction. Because he thought the game -- he got a little excited a few times, that's going to happen, but I thought he did a really great job.
He's done a great job on Christopherson. You come into this game, Christopherson I think averaged 21 points over the last five games. Tonight you look at what he did.
Those two 3s came from out-of-bounds situations, and one of them wasn't Myck. But as hard as he had to play, because as Christopherson is a tough guy to guard, and we were really concerned about their dribble penetration.
And Chap said -- and the question what he said was it was the hardest he ever had to play because our post guys had to get out there and help with the dribble hand-offs, ball screens and get back. There was a lot going on for our post guys, but they did it.
As a team, again, it's just a great team win. And there's no question this year from start to finish we stayed with what we wanted to do.
Q. At halftime you got 20 minutes that could decide your whole season left and you come out and give up a 7-0 run. Is there any panic, worry, just concern? What happened there, the way it started, and how did you get it turned around so quickly?
COACH BARNES: What I told them, I did get upset because we started the half with -- took a quick shot. We drove the ball. We wanted to be aggressive. We didn't just have the angle. Then we threw it out of bounds. And it was our offense.
Because all year we've guarded. And we did a really pretty good job for the most part getting back in transition. Not every time. But I did. At halftime I told them. I said, Look -- and, again, in terms of the NCAA Tournament, I think I've said from the very beginning everybody -- I mean, it's amazing when people talk about who is in, who is out, all that stuff, how things have changed in 24 hours.
It goes back to what I've always said: You put it in the book and at the very end you'll see. But I did tell the guys this. I said, You know what? Let's just say we are on the bubble. Let's just say that. All right. Now, if I wrote down NIT or NCAA, which one would you put your name under right now? And I said, So whichever one you want, I can assure you you're going to have to earn it.
And when we came out, yeah, I was upset, because I didn't think we came out and did what we needed to do. But we fought back. But this team has done this all year.
Q. Following up on how you guys stuck to your game plan, they shot 5 for 18 from 3. Can you just talk about are you pleased with that number, obviously?
COACH BARNES: Well, where we were able to do a good job there was we were able to stop a lot of -- they turned the corner so hard. And, again, you gotta give it to our guards for really working. And we talked about it for two days. It's being on edge, away from the ball, because they're an extremely hard team to guard. And White's as tough a matchup as anybody we'll play against.
But not only did it take the guards being ready, but the post guys had to do their job. And we told our guys we've gotta do them both. We've got to try to close down the lane, but we've got to get back out there on the catch.
But the key would be stopping dribble penetration, and for the most part we did stay in front of the basketball so they couldn't drive and kick out.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
Iowa State Quotes
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Coach Fred Hoiberg, student-athletes Scott Christopherson and Royce White.
Coach, your thoughts on tonight's game.
COACH HOIBERG: It's disappointing to go out in the first round down here, especially with all the fans we had in attendance. It was great to see all the cardinal and gold out there, and to walk away after one game is very disappointing.
I thought the key to the game was a nine-minute stretch in the second half. We go up 11 right away in the second half. About 18 minutes to go, and you look at the nine-minute mark, and we're down eight. So they outscore us by 19 points in that 10-minute stretch and that's the ballgame. They made big plays.
I thought we put our heads down a little bit as a team. And then we regrouped and found a way to get back in the game. But they made big plays down the stretch and we didn't.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Scott, what were they doing defensively to the perimeter shooter guys? Looked like they were playing fairly tight on you guys.
SCOTT CHRISTOPHERSON: They did a good job of getting to our perimeter guys and contesting 3s. I think Texas is a pretty good defensive team, and you've got to give them credit for the way they performed tonight on the defensive end.
Q. How did you see J'Covan Brown's game-winning 3-point play?
SCOTT CHRISTOPHERSON: He made -- kind of drove left and Babb cut him off. I thought he was going to spin back. I didn't do a good enough job getting my entire body down there in front of him. And I reached in. The ref made a call and he made a great shot.
Q. Royce, can you talk about your performance, 17 points, but in a loss, first-round quarterfinal down here?
ROYCE WHITE: It means nothing. My performance was not good enough, especially when you think about the first five minutes is the most important and I came out and turned it over.
It just wasn't good enough. I'm going to have to get better even here in the next week if we're going to make a run in the tournament.
Q. Royce, you now have a few days before Selection Sunday. What are these next few days going to be like for you and the team and what are you going to do now to get past this to look ahead to the tournament?
ROYCE WHITE: Just prepare. Just prepare and try and get better each day. Not knowing what opponent you're going to draw is definitely different in terms of preparation.
But you just prepare yourself mentally for whoever you draw and work on yourself more as a team than trying to prepare for an opponent that you don't know.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Can you talk about Chris Babb's defense in spite of what J'Covan Brown did, he shot 7 of 19 from the field. Hit big shots but they were all contested?
COACH HOIBERG: He's a big-time player. He's the leading scorer in our league. Gotta give him credit for making big plays down the stretch.
I thought Chris made him take tough shots. I didn't think our awareness to him the entire game was good enough. It was good at times. We ran at him and made him give up the ball. But there was other times where he split our defense, and you can't do that. You can't allow a great player to have those opportunities getting to the rim.
Listen, Chris has done a great job all year. He's as good a defensive perimeter player as there is in our league. But that kid, he's a load. He's a big-time player, made big-time plays tonight.
Q. You talked about that run that they made after you were up 11. Was it more about what they were doing on offense, or was it mistakes or turnovers from you guys?
COACH HOIBERG: It was a combination. We came out and got four baskets right off the bat, off of great ball movement. Really got out and ran and got rebounds. And that's how we attacked.
And once they started getting offensive rebounds, they get 16 offensive rebounds against us tonight. That's way too many.
We're not able to play in transition. That's where we've been at our best. We've been a very good rebounding team this year.
They came in minus one of their top rebounders and won many, but they still found a way to control the glass. That slowed us down. We weren't able to get out in transition. We had to play in the half court. They do a really good job in the half court as far as sitting in and making you beat them from the outside, which we didn't do tonight.
So a little bit of both. We didn't get the boards, and then they did a good job going out and attacking and getting the game and the tempo where they needed it.
Q. A loss like this can be tough for a team to overcome, do you imagine the kids are going to have a tough time getting past this one with what's ahead of you now?
COACH HOIBERG: It will bother them, that's for sure. It's a group that goes out and plays with pride. We've done that all season. We've accomplished a lot with this group. And it's a testament to them. Going back to all the hard work that this team has gone through, the two-a-days going back to July. A trip to Italy for ten days. And we put a lot into this season.
And they're a very disappointed group in there right now. We've got some things to correct here. We've got one more chance to go out and to try to do something, to try to make a run. And I believe this group will do that. We'll come in, we'll have good practices, and hopefully we come out and get a good draw and play well.
It's a learning experience, when you play in a setting like this, where you've got neutral court. You've got both bands. You've got both sets of fans in attendance and you learn from it. And hopefully we'll be better the next time.
I thought we came out a little bit tight. Once we started playing I thought we got better and that second half run was the key. That ten-minute stretch was the key to that game.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.