AUSTIN, Texas — Texas coach Rick Barnes was deliberate with his halftime message. Guards were to dribble less. The big men were to shoot more.
At the time, the unranked Longhorns were tied with eighth-ranked Iowa State at 36-36.
Thanks in part to Barnes’ halftime suggestion, Texas was able to pull off the 86-76 upset win over the Cyclones in front of 12,709 fans at the Erwin Center.
“In the locker room, Coach Barnes stressed our size advantage and said to take advantage of it,” said Texas center Cameron Ridley.
Texas’ front court features the 6-foot-9 Ridley and 6-8 forward Jonathan Holmes. The tallest player in the Cyclones’ three-man front court is 6-7 forward Georges Niang. Texas scored 32 points inside to Iowa State’s 22.
Holmes led all scorers with a career-tying 23 points, which was five points more than he posted in his last two games combined. Ridley scored 16 points, with five blocks and 11 rebounds. It proved to be the right mix of shooting and rebounding to allow the Longhorns (14-4, 3-2) their first win over a top 10 team in four seasons.
Niang led the Cyclones (14-3, 2-3) with 18 points. But his two front-court teammates — Melvin Ejim and Dustin Hogue — fouled out. Ejim did score 17 with 10 rebounds, but Hogue had only nine points and six rebounds.
Iowa State, which lost its third straight game of the year and sixth consecutive to Texas in Austin, also had its most mistake-prone contest of the season. The Cyclones, coming into the game, averaged 9.75 turnovers a contest. That was fewest in the Big 12.
On Saturday, the Cyclones nearly doubled that total with 18, with 12 coming in the first half. Overall, it was the most by Iowa State this year. Texas turned those mistakes into 15 points.
“I thought in the first half we were going too quick,” said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. “That was a cause of a lot of those travels. We were going before we let the play develop.”
Meanwhile, Texas, which is trying to revive its program after a 16-18 season a year ago, suffered only eight turnovers. The Longhorns trailed early, falling behind 29-20 with 8 minutes, 53 seconds to go in the first half.
Texas tied the game at halftime and built the lead to 75-61 with five minutes to play.
Iowa State rallied late, cutting the lead to 80-76 with 53 seconds to go. That’s when an opportunistic Ejim grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed shot by guard DeAndre Kane and fluidly dunked it over the Texas defense.
At a minimum, the Cyclones hoped to take the contest to overtime. A year ago, the two teams battled through two overtimes in Austin, with the Longhorns earning an 89-86 victory.
The Longhorns ended the game on six-point run, with all points coming courtesy of the free-throw line.
“We fought back and gave ourselves a chance at the end,” Hoiberg said. “But as I told them in the locker room after the game, you cannot come into the league, play 30 minutes and expect to win. It takes the full 40 to win.”
Four Longhorns starters scored in double figures and the bench responded with 16 points.
“This was a great win for us, no question,” Barnes said. “We didn’t have one guy that didn’t go in the game and make a contribution.”
NOTES: Texas’ last win over a top-10 team was in January, 2011. That was on the road against Kansas. The last time UT enjoyed a home win over a top-10 team was in December, 2009 against Michigan State. … Iowa State opened the season with a program-best 14-straight wins. The Cyclones have lost three straight since then, also falling to Kansas and Oklahoma. … Texas C Cameron Ridley had a dominant game for the Longhorns with 16 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in 27 minutes of play. It was his fifth double-double performance of the season and sixth of his career. … Iowa State was one of only six teams nationally with three players averaging at least 15 points a game. All three scored at least 15. F Melvin Ejim had 17, F Georges Niang scored 18 with G DeAndre Kane posting 15. It was Niang’s 19th straight game of at least 10 points. Kane had scored at least 20 points for the past three games. … Iowa State, led by Ejim’s 10 boards, outrebounded Texas 40-37. But the Longhorns were better on the offensive boards, 14-12. Ridley had four of the offensive rebounds for UT. Texas G Kandal Yancy had six rebounds in only seven minutes of action.