By Shehan Jeyarajah
For three straight games, Baylor has faced a must-win situation against a hot team. For three straight games, the Bears have come up short. No. 24 Baylor (13-6, 1-5) will now likely fall out of the top 25 after a 74-60 blowout at the hands of Texas (16-4, 5-2).
Texas came hot outa of the gates to start the first half. The Longhorns jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead, including a powerful dunk from sophomore center Cameron Ridley. Baylor would turn over the ball four times in the first four minutes.
Sophomore center Isaiah Austin would lead a Baylor comeback to tie the game at 15-15 with 9:38 left in the first half after hitting four straight free throws for the Bears. The Bears and Longhorn would trade buckets before sophomore forward Taurean Prince nailed a jumper to put Baylor up 22-21 with 4:32 left in the first half.
Texas would answer back with six straight points. Baylor and Texas would once again trade baskets before freshman guard Martez Walker hit a three in the corner with 16 seconds left for the Longhorns to push the lead out to 31-27 at the half.
In the first half, both teams combined to shoot a paltry 32.1 percent on 17-for-53 from the field. Texas and Baylor had only one three-pointer between them. Baylor struggled with ball movement. They had only three total assists in the first half. No individual player dished more than one assist in the half.
The Bears and Longhorns would alternate runs to open the second half. Ridley had six points in the early going for Texas. Sophomore forward Taurean Prince led a Baylor run back with five points in a three-minute period.
From that point on, the game belonged to Texas guard Isaiah Taylor. The freshman from California scored 16 points in the second half. His career-high coming into this game was 17 points. Over a 90 second half, Taylor scored seven straight points to push the Texas lead out to 53-42.
Texas would then score 11 unanswered points to give themselves a 63-47 cushion with only 5:23 left in the game. Senior guard Gary Franklin would score eight points in the final five minutes, but it would not be enough to overcome the Texas advantage.
“Confidence is down, but every day we have a choice,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “I’m hoping people are sleeping in the gym because people are shooting poorly. We have a game on Tuesday so we have a chance to improve. It starts with everyone being confident in ourselves.”
Prince led Baylor with 12 points and six rebounds on 5-for-11 shooting. Franklin played arguably his best game of the season scoring 14 points on 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. The frontcourt of Austin, sophomore forward Rico Gathers and senior power forward Cory Jefferson combined to shoot 5-for-22 on the night.
“All we have to do is stick to what we know,” Prince said. “We have to pick up the intensity coming out of halftime. Just stick to what we know and get back to the basics.”
After the loss, Baylor falls to ninth place in the crowded Big 12, behind only perennial doormat TCU.
“We’re optimistic,” Franklin said after the loss. We just had a team meeting. We talked a lot, and we’re going to figure it out. This is a team that fights. I would rather start 1-5 than go undefeated and lose in the first game of the NCAA Tournament.”
Baylor will look to turn their season around at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night against West Virginia.