KANSAS CITY, Mo. _Texas boosted its opportunity to secure a 14th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament with Thursday night’s 71-65 victory over No. 25 Iowa State in the Sprint Center.
The victory gave the Longhorns (20-12) their first victory of the season against a team ranked in the Top 25 of the college basketball polls at the time the game was played. Texas also defeated No. 21 Temple, 77-65, on Dec. 17 when the Owls (24-6) were unranked.
J’Covan Brown led the Longhorns to Thursday’s victory by scoring a team-high 23 points. The triumph means Texas, No. 50 in the most recent RPI rankings and projected to be the final school into the 68-team NCAA field by ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi, enhanced its resume by defeating the Cyclones (22-10), the third seed in the Big 12 Tournament.
Texas has been considered an NCAA bubble team since securing a 9-9 finish in the Big 12 regular-season standings. But the Longhorns headed into Thursday’s game with an 0-8 record against ranked opponents.
That is now 1-8, thanks to a tight victory in which Brown’s 3-point play in the final minute broke a 65-65 tie and triggered Texas’ 6-0 closing run. With the victory, Texas improved to 2-8 this season in games decided by six points or less.
Typically, teams must finish in the Top 50 of the RPI rankings to earn an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. Texas’ victory gave the Longhorns their fourth victory of the season against an opponent ranked 50th or higher in the latest RPI rankings. Texas is 2-1 against Iowa State (No. 30 in RPI), 1-1 against Kansas State (No. 42 in RPI) and defeated Temple, which is No. 13 in the latest RPI.
_ Jimmy Burch