Bradley, No. 1 Texas beat Iowa State 90-83
AMES, Iowa (AP)—Texas reached No. 1 for the first time in school history without having to lean too heavily on highly touted freshman Avery Bradley.
Bradley seems ready to play a much larger role for the loaded Longhorns—as he did in their first win as a top-ranked team on Wednesday night.
Bradley scored 24 points, including 16 in the second half, and top-ranked Texas overcame its first Big 12 road test of the season by beating Iowa State 90-83 Wednesday night.
Damion James added 23 points and 14 rebounds for the unbeaten Longhorns (16-0, 2-0), who opened the second half with a 16-4 run and never trailed again.
“I just feel like I’m getting more comfortable playing with my teammates. I’m just learning the game in college,” Bradley said. “It’s more my teammates trusting me and believing in me and them getting me the ball when I’m open. And when they did, I just made the shot.”
Over and over again.
Bradley, who had a career-high 29 points in a win over Colorado on Saturday, shot 10 of 14 from the floor and added six assists, six rebounds, three steals— and no turnovers.
He’s shot 22 of 28 from the field in his last two games, including all seven 3-pointers.
“Avery just keeps getting better and better, and what he does, he really works hard on both ends of the floor,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “He’s obviously playing extremely well offensively, but the reason he’s out there (is) because he has become a guy that really defends.”
Marquis Gilstrap had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Iowa State (11-5, 0-1), which lost its 16th straight to ranked opponents since 2006.
The Cyclones cut the lead to 83-76 on LaRon Dendy’s dunk with 3:03 left. But Texas ran a minute off the clock by controlling the boards, and Jai Lucas hit two free throws to make it 85-76.
Craig Brackins had 18 points and Lucca Staiger had 17 for the Cyclones, who shot just 1 of 10 from 3-point range after a scorching first half from beyond the arc.
Iowa State buried six of its first nine 3-pointers to jump ahead 44-42. But the Longhorns erased a rare halftime deficit with their one of their trademark bursts, scoring 10 points in the opening 1:38 of the second half to go ahead 52-44.
Bradley kept the Cyclones at bay with three 3-pointers midway through the second half, and he followed Gary Johnson’s turnaround with another 3 to put the Longhorns ahead 78-65 with 6:47 left.
While Bradley is just beginning a career he hopes will end in the record books, James etched his in Big 12 lore.
With his 14 rebounds, James became the Big 12’s leader in career boards. He has 1,147 rebounds, breaking the mark of 1,143 set by former Kansas star Nick Collison.
“It’s cool, I guess. But I don’t really get into that type of stuff, man. I’m just all about this team,” James said. “I plan on just crushing the record where nobody else can get it.”
Iowa State entered the game in a midseason crisis.
The Cyclones had won five of their last six, but needed two overtimes to get past Houston at home and was thumped by No. 8 Duke 86-65 in Chicago.
Cyclones coach Greg McDermott suspended talented freshman point guard Chris Colvin until at least February for a violation of team rules. Iowa State then finished non-conference play by squeaking past North Dakota State, 73-71, on Saturday.
But the Cyclones became just the second team all season to stay within 10 points of the Longhorns, which could serve as a morale boost in conference play.
“I felt like we competed great. If we can just carry this over, it can help us out throughout the Big 12,” Brackins said. “The Big 12 is one of the strongest conferences from top to bottom. You have to bring it everyday.
For all that Texas has accomplished under coach Rick Barnes—11 straight trips to the NCAA tournament, three regional finals in seven years and a spot in the 2003 Final Four—it had never reached the top spot in the polls until Monday.
If Texas wants to hang onto the lofty ranking, though, it’s going to have to earn it. The Longhorns host Texas A&M on Saturday before trips to No. 13 Kansas State and No. 15 Connecticut next week.
But the Longhorns appear stronger than ever thanks to Bradley’s emergence as both a scorer and defender.
“We feel like every game we play, there’s a big old target on our back because we’re Texas. I guess, with the No. 1 spot, it made it that much bigger,” James said. “We like the challenge. We have a great team.”