AUSTIN, Texas (AP) ''Havoc'' is finally taking hold at Texas, where first-year coach Shaka Smart and the No. 24 Longhorns have shaken off a slow start to join the hunt for the Big 12 title.
Texas (16-8, 7-4 Big 12) sits firmly among the four teams in a second-place logjam just one game out of first heading into Saturday night's big road matchup at No. 14 Iowa State (17-7, 6-5).
And though it took a while, Smart's ''havoc'' style of aggressive defense and up-tempo offense has taken root in the last few weeks.
Beat Iowa State and Texas knows that a league crown the Longhorns haven't worn since 2008 could be there for the taking.
''We know we're going to have a great chance of winning'' the league, guard Kendal Yancy said. ''It just keeps growing and growing, our belief in each other.''
It certainly didn't start that way when Texas was 3-3 and Smart described the Longhorns as a mentally fragile bunch. The Longhorns have clearly shaken off that label in a league long known for its physical play and where intimidation is part of the game.
''They're not going to punk us,'' Yancy said. ''We're fighting back ... We're winning that battle as well.''
Smart has pushed his players in that direction. In Monday night's 63-60 loss at No. 3 Oklahoma - a game the Sooners won with a last-second 3-pointer - center Prince Ibeh was caught up in a jostling incident that resulted in officials calling a double technical foul. During the timeout, while game officials sorted out the foul, television microphones picked up Smart cautioning his team not to get caught up in ''shenanigans'' but also forcefully telling them, ''We will stand up!''
''We're not a soft group,'' Ibeh said. ''This team has an edge.''
Ibeh could find himself in a frontcourt battle Saturday night with Cyclones forward Jameel McKay.
Iowa State announced Friday that McKay, who averages 12 points and nine rebounds, will return after a two-game suspension.
Ibeh has had a turnaround senior season under Smart. Under previous coach Rick Barnes, Ibeh spent most of his career coming off the bench until a broken foot injury forced out starter Cam Newton and pushed Ibeh on the court as a starter.
Ibeh has blossomed in his final chance. A defensive force who averages nearly two blocks per game, Ibeh has had his moments on offense, too, with double-doubles against Vanderbilt and TCU, and a solid nine-point effort against Oklahoma.
The toughness Smart wants has projected itself in other ways, particularly with the trapping defense he used so well at VCU to the bursts of up-tempo offense fueled by guard Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix.
None of this started particularly well.
A miserably long trip to China for the season-opener resulted in a lethargic loss to Washington. A trip back across the globe to a holiday tournament in the Bahamas produced two more losses in three games.
Then the pieces slowly starting fitting into place. Felix hit a buzzer-beater to beat North Carolina. Then came key road wins at West Virginia and Baylor. Texas also won its first matchup with Iowa State at home. At Oklahoma, the Longhorns led for nearly the entire game before Buddy Hield's big shot gave the Sooners the win.
To finish out this season, Texas will play five ranked opponents over its final seven games, including home matchups against West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas.
''We're pretty good when we're the underdogs,'' Yancy said.
Win a bunch of those remaining games and Texas won't be underdogs any more.