Bears fall to Texas, lose Big 12 lead

Senior Forward Rico Gathers blocks Texas player John Heard on Monday at the Ferrell Center. Photo credit: Richard Hirst

The No. 15 Baylor men’s basketball team fell short to instate rival Texas, in a hard-fought battle at the Ferrell Center Monday night, 67-59.

With the fans dressed in black in the annual “blackout” night, and ESPN covering the game as part of its Big Monday college basketball event, the Bears had the support behind them, but it was not enough to give the Bears the edge.

“I thought we made some mistakes, they played well and defended well. We were not shooting it very well. Our points off turnovers was the difference. It was second chances that kept us in it.” – head coach Scott Drew

“We had the two highest teams playing in conference in my opinion, besides Oklahoma, but unfortunately not a good ending for us.”

The Bears (17-5, 6-3) came out attacking, diving for balls and getting steals to push the momentum their way. Senior forward Taurean Prince hitt a quick three-pointer and the Bears stole the momentum at the onset of the game.

“Yeah it was frustrating, but as a player you cant get to down or to up. I think we did the best of our ability with regards to leading. But defensively we could have done things differently.” – Senior forward Taurean Prince

While second chance opportunities were big for the Bears, failing to stop the Longhorns (15-7, 6-3) in the paint would present a problem.

The Longhorns answered back and took the lead, head coach Scott Drew called a timeout with over 15 minutes remaining in the first half.

It was Prince that came up big for the Bears in the first half to keep it close. Prince scored eight points, three rebounds and two steals.

Drew was forced to call another timeout in hopes for his team to regroup after the Longhorns held the lead at 19-16.

“We are going to have to figure out how we can get better defensively.” – head coach Scott Drew

With the Longhorns continuing to extend their lead, a big block and steal from Prince revived the crowd but it was to no avail in giving the Bears any momentum.

The Bears struggled to connect in the first half. Prince assisted senior forward Rico Gathers, which brought the Bears back within five with just over four minutes remaining in the half, 32-27.

The Bears finished the first half down, 35-29.

Contributing to the deficit at the half, in a rare occurrence this season, Baylor’s bench players were outscored by the opposing team’s bench players. The Longhorns’ backups outscored the Bears’ bench 16 -4 in the first half.

“We’ve been so strong with bench play, but tonight we never got in the rhythm. We didn’t get in flow where we could get that spur off the bench for us.” – head coach Scott Drew

Coming back from the half, the Bears looked to be an entirely new team. The Bears quickly cut the deficit to four, and the crowd got back in the game.

Prince continued to dominate, hitting two big three-pointers to put the Bears even with the Longhorns, 37-37.

The Longhorns hit another shot behind the arc, but Gathers responded for the Bears by capitalizing on an and-one three-point play to tie it back up, 43-43.

“First, give [Texas] credit. Second, we adjusted our game plan. But that is on our coaching staff, not the players.” – head coach Scott Drew

Although sophomore forward Jonathan Motley was relatively ineffective off the bench, he hit a shot and a free throw when it mattered, putting the Bears back within one point, 48-47.

However, it was Longhorn senior forward Connor Lammert that hit a big three to extend his team’s lead. With just under four minutes remaining, the Bears found themselves down five, 56-51.

A dunk by Gathers gave the Bears the spark they needed and pulled the Bears within three points with one minute and 42 seconds remaining. Gathers found himself at the line, and, although hit only one shot, it gave the Bears a much needed push.

Lammert once again hit a three-pointer for the Longhorns, but senior guard Lester Medford came back down the floor match it, keeping the Bears within three points and 38.7 seconds remaining in regulation.

Unable to take advantage of an offensive possession, the Bears were forced to foul and the Longhorns closed out the game. Texas were excellent from the line in the final stages. The Bears saw their chance for a comeback diminish.

“It hurts a lot, but you cant look back on it, and we have to get ready for west Virginia.” – Senior guard Lester Medford

The Bears drop from their previous position of a first-place tie with Oklahoma and are now in a two-way tie with Texas for second-place in the Big 12 standings.

Baylor travels to Morgantown, W. Va., to face West Virginia at 7 p.m. at WVU Coliseum. The Mountaineers are currently tied for first place in the Big 12 with Oklahoma.