KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Longhorns bounced 11th-seeded Iowa State 82-75 and now UT gets No. 3-seeded Baylor for the third time this season after losing the first two meetings.
A game being touted as a bad blood feud between Rick Barnes and Scott Drew based on some comments Barnes made at the Big 12 Tourney last year towards Drew will start at 8:30 p.m. CT Thursday night at the Sprint Center.
Last year at this time, Barnes told the New York Times of an adversarial relationship with Drew, "There's a line that he knows that he can't cross with me," Barnes said of Drew. "He knows that. He definitely knows that."
Drew has a reputation for negative recruiting. Barnes also disapproves of A.A.U. coaches being hired to help land recruits (something Drew did in an attempt to land John Wall, who ended up at Kentucky).
Barnes' words in The New York Times were used against Barnes in Waco on Saturday as Baylor students held up signs reading, "Have we crossed the line yet Rick?"
Texas actually enters that showdown with some momentum after a solid performance against Iowa State, led by a determined Damion James (28 points on 9-of-20 shooting and 16 rebounds) and Gary Johnson (15 points on 7-of-11 shooting with 10 rebounds).
Johnson got the start for Texas Wednesday night, along with James, Dexter Pittman (16 points on 7-of-9 shooting with 5 rebounds in 19 minutes), Avery Bradley (10 points on 4-of-10 shooting with 1 assist , 1 turnover and 1 steal in 26 minutes).
"Coach said they had 15 dunks, and that's never happened, so we've got to take it personal," James said of Thursday's quarterfinal with Baylor. "That's all I'm going to say about that situation. We're going to take it personal and see how it goes tomorrow."
BIG MEN PLAY BIG
After being dominated 54-32 in the paint by Baylor, including 10 dunks by Quincy Acy (and 15 total), Texas rose up against Iowa State's talented triumverate of Marquis Gilstrap, Craig Brackins and Justin Hamilton. UT outscored Iowa State in the paint 36-26.
"If Dex and Gary and Matt Hill are playing like that, we're really hard to beat," James said. "We just have to keep playing through our big guys and keep it going."
Matt Hill had a series of nice plays including a jaw-dropping rejection of Brackins in the first half.
"Matt just does a lot of subtle things for us," said Rick Barnes.
Barnes challenged Damion James to outrebound Gilstrap, who was the leader in rebounding in conference play (10.3 rpg). James (who averaged 9.9 rpg in conference games) answered the call with his 16 rebounds compared to Gilstrap's 8.
RECLAIMING THE PAINT
Texas outrebounded Iowa State 46-34 and waxed ISU in second-chance points 20-6.
"Defensively, I think we've done a pretty good job with the lineup of Gary, Dexter and Damion," Barnes said. "It depends on matchups. From game to game, that's what it will be based on."
Barnes praised Jai Lucas, who played 22 minutes and finished with 2 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 0 turnovers. Lucas and Justin Mason worked the point most of the night as J'Covan Brown played only 3 minutes - none in the second half.
Barnes said the playing time for Lucas over Brown was based on how "Jai responded in a real hard practice after the Baylor game on Sunday. Same for Matt Hill."
Avery Bradley, who came into the game shooting 32.3 percent the previous six games, dating to mid-February, was 4-of-10.
Bradley refused to blame dead legs for his recent shooting woes. "I wasn't run down. I just wasn't knocking down shots, but I'm trying to help my team in other ways," Bradley said.
PITTMAN READY FOR 'BEAST MODE'?
Pittman said he's looking forward to the rematch with Baylor.
"Like Damion said, we need to take it personal," Pittman said. "We just have to play harder than those guys. It's point-blank. Last game, we didn't play hard enough.
"We just relaxed, and they had 15 dunks. We didn't have any toughness that game."
It was during the Big 12 Tournament last year, when Pittman posted on his Facebook page that it was time to enter "Beast Mode." And he did, averaging a double-double in the Big 12 tourney. When I asked him if it was time for "Beast Mode" Thursday, he said:
"I don't say 'Beast Mode' anymore," Pittman said. "I just go out there and be a player. Just put in God's hands and play."
STATEMENT GAME COMING UP
Bradley said, he too, took that loss to Baylor last weekend personally.
"Coach didn't need to say anything about them making those 15 dunks," Bradley said. "We just want to go out there and get revenge back."
Senior guard Justin Mason said there has been no players-only meetings or call to arms with the team now in post-season.
"It's the first time we all played hard together in a while," Mason said. "Our guards did a good job tonight. We rebounded well and didn't give them a second-chance shot.
"We didn't have any meetings, but we're trying to be more vocal with the younger guys and tell them to let it all go because at this time of year, you're not promised another game."