A deep lineup has helped Texas become one of the nation’s top offensive teams. In turn, that scoring has led the Longhorns to their best start in 77 seasons and their first No. 1 ranking in school history.
The nation’s newest top-ranked team will try to continue its unbeaten run in its first Big 12 road game Wednesday night against Iowa State, which is opening conference play.
Texas (15-0, 1-0) came into this season with high expectations as Damion James, Dexter Pittman and Justin Mason returned, giving the program its first senior class in six seasons. Adding to that, the Longhorns welcomed arguably their best recruiting class in school history.
Together, those players have boosted the team to an 88.1-point average with four scoring in double figures, led by James’ 16.9 per game.
Texas remained one of two unbeaten teams in Division I after Saturday’s conference opener, a 103-86 blowout of visiting Colorado. Combined with Kansas’ loss at Tennessee on Saturday, it also pushed Texas to the nation’s No. 1 ranking for the first time.
“I do think this is a compliment to our program and to this year’s team for what they have done to this point,” coach Rick Barnes said. “But, it’s like I told our guys, I can’t honestly tell you who the No. 1 team was in the country on the second week of January last year. But I do know who won the national championship.”
Freshman guard Avery Bradley’s continued progression would help the drive for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and a fourth Big 12 title.
Bradley scored a career-best 29 on 12-of-14 shooting Saturday to help the Longhorns to their best start since 1932-33 and the third-best in school history. James added 20 points and 14 rebounds for his fifth double-double in six games and is 11 rebounds shy of becoming the Big 12’s all-time leader, surpassing Nick Collison’s 1,143 for Kansas from 2000-03.
“We’ve got to realize that since we have that No. 1 by our name, the target on our back is bigger,” he said.
The first team to take a crack at the No. 1 Longhorns is an Iowa State team that has lost 15 straight to Top 25 opponents, including three defeats to Texas. The Cyclones will play a No. 1 team for the first time since a 102-66 loss at Kansas on Feb. 18, 2002.
Iowa State (11-4, 0-0) suffered one of those 15 straight defeats last Wednesday in Chicago, 86-65 to then-No. 5 Duke. The Cyclones also nearly lost to visiting North Dakota State on Saturday, but junior guard Charles Boozer scored a career-high 19 off the bench and grabbed a key rebound in the final seconds of a 73-71 win.
Craig Brackins, who leads Iowa State with 16.9 points per game, scored 15 to reach double figures for the 13th straight contest.
Brackins, a first team all-Big 12 selection as a sophomore, had a team-leading 20 points in last season’s 75-67 loss at then-No. 7 Texas, while James paced the Longhorns with 19. Brackins was held to three points on 1-of-9 shooting as the Cyclones lost 71-65 in overtime in the Longhorns’ previous visit to Ames on Feb. 9, 2008.
Texas, which leads the series 10-8, will search for its fifth straight win over the Cyclones.
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