By Chris Derrett
Late in Saturday’s game against No. 3 Texas at the Erwin Center, Baylor needed a Herculean performance from somebody if it wanted any chance at scoring the upset. Senior LaceDarius Dunn gave the Bears just that with 22 second half points, but his team’s late comeback fell short in a 69-60 loss to the Longhorns.
Dunn pulled the Bears within four points at 61-57 with just over four minutes left in the game, part of 10 straight points Dunn scored his team.
The Longhorns, however, proved why they were the No. 3 team in the nation and connected when it counted most. Despite a dismal 59 percent free throw shooting night, Texas nailed six free throws in the final 1:34 that sealed the game.
“I thought we really competed and played a lot better in the second half. We gave ourselves a chance to win on the road,” coach Scott Drew said.
Tristian Thompson and Jordan Hamilton each scored 17 points for the Longhorns. Gary Johnson was the third of five Texas players in double figures with 13 points.
Texas was too big, too fast and too strong early in the game. After a slow start from both teams, the Longhorns mounted an 18-6 run that forced a Baylor timeout when J’Covan Brown’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to 23-11.
“Texas showed why they’ve been tough all year. They were dominant, really got after us. We didn’t respond well. I thought the coaching staff could have done better in using a couple more timeouts, maybe trying to change some things up early in the game” Drew said.
Offensively the Bears sputtered. Dunn and freshman Perry Jones III were each 2 of 7 at halftime, combining for zero assists and five turnovers.
“In the first half I did a bad job of taking bad shots,” Dunn said. “In the second half I kind of let it come to me, and we took our time. I think that made it a different ball game.
Conversely, Hamilton and Thompson had no problem getting to the basket, beating a Baylor zone defense that has been subject to exploitation in the Bears’ losses. By halftime, the Longhorns racked up 20 points in the paint. The layups, dunks and uncontested jump shots were enough for Drew to switch to man-to-man defense.
“In the man, we did a better job guarding,” Dunn said.
The difference was evident in the second half. Texas scored just six more points in the paint in the final 20 minutes and went 6 of 22 in the period.
On the other end, Jones III warmed to 4 of 6 second-half shooting to finish with 13 points.
Where Texas saw huge improvement, though, was getting to the free throw line.
Had the Longhorns hit more than 18 of their 31 second-half free throws, the game could have been their 10th straight double-digit margin of victory in conference play this year. As it stands, the Bears are the only Big 12 team to be within 10 at the final buzzer.
Before Dunn’s layup to cut the lead to 61-57, Texas had seven two-shot opportunities at the charity stripe. It made 1 of 2 on every trip.
The tradeoff between easy buckets and free throws, Drew said, still might have been difficult for the Bears had he made a defensive switch earlier in the game.
“If we played man the whole game, I don’t know if we would have had any players left. And you wouldn’t have wanted to see me play,” Drew said.