AUSTIN (AP) – Off to its worst Big 12 start in 14 years, Texas was desperate for a win.
The Longhorns finally got one, even if they let what could have been a rout turn into a nervous finish in the final minute.
Myck Kabongo scored 13 points, Julien Lewis had 12 and Texas ended a three-game losing streak with a 62-55 victory over Iowa State on Tuesday night.
“It feels great,” said Kabongo, a freshman point guard whose struggles running the offense have been highlighted in some of Texas’ losses. “We pushed each other. A win, coming at home, is a great feeling.”
Texas (13-7, 3-4 Big 12) got the victory despite a bad night by leading scorer J’Covan Brown, who scored 12 on 3-of-16 shooting and compounded that with five turnovers.
“Myck stepped up and hit two or three big shots down the stretch,” Brown said. “You want to see that when I’m struggling.”
Brown and Kabongo made key late baskets that held off an Iowa State rally. The Cyclones trimmed an 18-point second-half deficit to 58-55 after 3-pointers by Chris Allen and Chris Babb in the final minute.
Brown made two free throws with 21 seconds left, and Kabongo’s steal from Allen and fast-break layup 9 seconds later ended it.
“It’s hard to fight back when you’re down 18, especially when you’re on the road,” said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. “Tonight we just did not have it.”
Iowa State beat Texas in the conference opener, but the Big 12’s top 3-point-shooting team struggled badly from long range in the rematch. The Cyclones average nine 3-pointers but were just 5 of 21 on Tuesday night.
Royce White led Iowa State (14-6, 4-3) with 15 points, 15 rebounds and five assists but scored just four in the second half and was just 1 of 7 shooting free throws.
Brown, who averaged 26 points in consecutive losses to Missouri, Kansas State and Kansas, was 0 for 9 shooting and managed just a single free throw in the first half. Texas still put together a 15-2 run to take the lead and went up 28-22 with 1 second left when Clint Chapman put back a miss by Brown on the final play of the half.
Brown briefly found his shooting touch early in the second when his consecutive 3-pointers put Texas up 36-24.
The baskets finally roused a home crowd that had been quiet, and Kabongo followed with another 3-pointer as Texas built the lead to 42-26.
White’s scoring all but disappeared in the second half. He missed the rim on a free throw, was called for a violation when he began his shooting motion on another but stopped before letting it go, and then launched an air ball on a 3-pointer.
The game was on the verge of turning into a blooper reel for Iowa State when Melvin Ejim missed a dunk on a 3-on-1 fast break in which he didn’t even get the ball over the rim.
But Texas, unfamiliar with having a big lead late, couldn’t hold it. Sloppy play with turnovers and missed shots led to a 7-minute scoreless stretch, and Iowa State slowly trimmed the deficit.
Tyrus McGee pulled Iowa State within 48-42 with three free throws with 4:22 to play. Texas responded with a long jumper by Sheldon McClellan and another by Kabongo, and the lead seemed safe until the final minute.
“We had some big breakdowns at the end,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “When we got the lead, we got careless. Overall, I think we made progress.”
Simply ending the losing streak was a big step for a young Texas team that is typically an annual title contender in the Big 12. The confidence boost was sorely needed for a team set to face No. 6 Baylor and No. 2 Missouri in the next six days.
“This win is huge,” Chapman said. “Dropping three in a row is something that this program does not like to see. … It will be nice to carry it with us to (Baylor) on Saturday.”
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