KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Texas had it in the bag.
And then, just like that, Iowa State’s Monte Morris’ step-back buzzer-beater sunk Texas and gave Iowa State the 69–67 win in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals Thursday.
“What an unbelievable game — still not sure how we won,” Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Monte Morris just made a heck of an individual play.”
Texas hadn’t trailed a single second of the game, leading by a comfortable margin throughout. But as the clock began to dwindle, so did Texas.
Junior forward Connor Lammert gave it right to Iowa State on an inbounds pass. Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor nonchalantly walked into a 10-second backcourt violation. And all of a sudden, with just over a minute left, Iowa State tied it up with a 10–0 run.
“It’s tough losing the way we did because just the turnovers in the last four minutes, really,” Texas head coach Rick Barnes said. “We made a few careless plays at the wrong time.”
Texas still had a chance, though. An offensive rebound gave Texas the opportunity to hold for the last shot as the score was knotted at 67, but, instead, junior guard Javan Felix cranked a three that clanked off the back rim and gave Iowa State the last chance.
“I can understand you would like to hold the ball there for that last shot if you could,” Barnes said. “But I could understand Javan shooting it with the rhythm he was into.”
The Cyclones made the most of their last opportunity. Morris, a sophomore guard, was isolated and hit a step-back jumper over junior guard Demarcus Holland as the buzzer went off to eliminate the Longhorns in the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Missouri. The Sprint Center, which was filled by Iowa State faithful, erupted.
“I tried as hard as I could to stop him from getting to the basket,” Holland said. “He made a great move; I tried to contest it, and he made the shot.”
The Longhorns beat Texas Tech on Wednesday night by pounding it inside in a second-half stretch that saw the Longhorns look as crisp as they have all season. But with Iowa State’s defensive player of the year, Jameel McKay, fronting Texas’ junior center Cameron Ridley nearly all game, Texas challenged Iowa State to a three-point shootout.
Texas fired up 22 from long range. Iowa State matched. Texas knocked down 10 of those. Iowa State matched.
Texas was able to build themselves a comfortable lead as Iowa State went ice-cold in the latter parts of the first half. From the 12:51 to the 3:06 mark, Iowa State missed 11 straight shots as Texas went on a 14–0 run to take control of the half and the game.
“It’s not very often we’re going to have a nine-minute scoring drought with what we have out there offensively,” Hoiberg said. “Give those guys a lot of credit.”
With a raucous crowd urging them on, Iowa State didn’t bend over. They fought and fought, cutting the lead many times. Texas found an answer each and every time — until the end.
“We played our hearts out,” Taylor said. “Our coaching staff put us in a great position to win a game.”
Senior forward Jonathan Holmes led Texas with 15 points. Taylor added 13. Felix poured in 10, all coming in the first half.
Iowa State was led by 24 from Morris and 22 from junior forward Georges Niang.
Now all Texas can do is wait until the NCAA Tournament selection committee determines its fate Sunday.
“We can’t really control anything right now,” Holland said. “We dropped one today that would have really helped us out a lot. I’m confident whatever tournament we got to, and, if we go to the Big Dance, that we will be a great team that can compete with anybody in the country.”