Published March 08, 2012
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Texas knows enough to rely on J'Covan Brown when the Longhorns need a basket.
The Big 12's leading scorer converted a go-ahead three-point play with 36.3 seconds left, and the Longhorns held on to beat No. 25 Iowa State 71-65 on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
Brown finished with 23 points for the Longhorns (20-12), who reached the 20-win plateau for the 13th consecutive season and likely removed themselves from the NCAA tournament bubble.
Texas will face fifth-ranked Missouri in the semifinals Friday night.
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.
Myck Kabongo added 11 points and Clint Champman had 10 for Texas, which has been to 13 straight NCAA tournaments, tied for the fourth-best streak in the nation behind the Jayhawks, Duke and Michigan State — a streak that had been in question heading into Kansas City.
The Longhorns can really make it easy on the selection committee with a win over Missouri, which beat them twice during the regular season. Both of those games were close.
The Cyclones, who most believe are squarely in the dance, still haven't won a Big 12 tournament game since 2005. They've dropped seven straight, four of them at the Sprint Center.
It seemed like the old days for Iowa State for a while.
Fans brought Hilton Magic down I-35 during the early years of the Big 12 tournament, turning the old Kemper Arena into an intimidating homecourt advantage. Sprint Center felt a bit like that against Texas, with red- and yellow-clad fans filling the place to the rafters for the day session and then filing right back in for the night session.
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.
The Longhorns answered with six straight points near the end of the half, but they still trailed 29-25 at the break due to some abysmal shooting. Texas was 10 of 38 from the field (26 percent), 1 of 9 from beyond the arc and a miserable 4 for 7 from the foul line.
Iowa State got into a rhythm early in the second half, scoring the first seven points and eventually taking a 40-29 lead on Scott Christopherson's jumper with 17:10 left.
The Longhorns came stampeding back.
Lewis and Kabongo 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 managed to knock 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 the game 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.