AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A flurry of first-half 3-pointers had No. 8 Texas off and running to stay on top of the Big 12.
And with three games left in the regular season, the Longhorns can see what’s coming: a chance to win a Big 12 championship that has eluded the program since 2008.
Sir’Jabari Rice and Tyrese Hunter each scored 15 points and the Longhorns quickly raced away from No. 23 Iowa State for a 72-54 win Tuesday night. The victory kept the Longhorns (22-6, 11-4) tied with No. 3 Kansas for first place.
“This was a great team win. We did a great job with our physicality. We guarded really hard tonight,” interim Texas coach Rodney Terry said. “This league is tough, man. Every night, it’s an elite level (opponent).”
Texas shook off a sluggish start with a 16-0 run keyed by Hunter. The Longhorns made nine 3-pointers in the first half and shot 55% in taking a 19-point lead into halftime.
The Cyclones (17-10, 8-7), who beat Texas in their first matchup, kept sagging off shooters in the corners and the Longhorns kept the shots swishing.
The Longhorns led by four before Hunter started a run of six Texas 3-pointers over the final eight minutes of the first half.
Hunter was the Big 12 freshman of the year last season at Iowa State before transferring to Texas. He led Texas’ scoring punch in the early games of the season, but had been in double figures just twice in the previous 10 games. He didn’t score in the second half in the earlier matchup this season with his old team.
“Tyrese has been working extremely hard. Glad to see he had some positive results,” Terry said.
Texas cooled off in the second half and went nearly six minutes without a basket before Brock Cunningham made a 3-pointer. But Iowa State did little to cut its deficit, making just two baskets in the same span.
Cunningham scored eight of Texas’ first 10 points of the half to keep the Longhorns comfortably in control. Hunter’s 3 from the right corner put Texas ahead by 20 midway through the period.
The Longhorns needed that cushion. Texas scored only 16 points and eight turnovers over the first 15 minutes of the second half. Iowa State closed within 13 before Timmy Allen’s breakaway dunk and a 3-pointer from Rice all but closed out the win.
Osun Ossunniyi scored 12 points to lead Iowa State.
Texas has been almost perfect in the Moody Center, the school’s new campus arena that replaced the 45-year-old Erwin Center a half-mile away. Texas is 16-1 at Moody, the only loss coming against Kansas State on a night the Longhorns surrendered 116 points. Texas plays Baylor and TCU on the road before hosting Kansas on March 4.
Iowa State: The Cyclones’ defense has been dependable all season and once again held an opponent under their season scoring average. But 11 Iowa State first half turnovers against just 10 baskets ignited Texas’ fast start. Texas turned those miscues into 21 points in the half.
“Their pressure was terrific in that first half,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “It got away from us quick.”
Texas: The Longhorns’ deep backcourt got some of its best minutes yet this season from heralded but little-used freshman Arterio Morris. One of the top recruits in the country, Morris has struggled for playing time but poured in eight points in his first seven minutes of the first half on 3-of-3 shooting with a pair of 3-pointers.
“He’s had the best attitude the last couple of weeks, the ups and downs, some games not playing. He’s learning his niche at this level,” Cunningham said.
Iowa State hosts Oklahoma on Saturday.
Texas plays at No. 9 Baylor on Saturday.