By Nate Keil | Sports Writer
Baylor men’s basketball commemorated the Immortal Ten on Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center. The Immortal Ten refers to the 10 players of the 1927 Baylor team that were killed in a bus accident on its way to Austin to take on the University of Texas.
The Bears came dressed in black uniforms with the names of those players who were killed in the accident posted on the backs of their jerseys. The Ferrell Center also left 10 empty seats on the Baylor bench baseline, opposite the media table, to symbolize the team.
As for the game, junior forward Johnathan Motley scored 32 points and grabbed 20 rebounds and Baylor extended its home winning streak to 11 games with a 74-64 victory over the Texas Longhorns. The 30 point, 20 rebound effort was the fourth time this feat had been accomplished in program history.
Motley was determined to make his presence felt more than it had been in the Bears’ last two outings.
“I just wanted to come back and made sure I played a better game than the last two I played,” Motley said. “I did everything I could to be better than I was those two games and help my team win.”
Texas came out of the gate strong, racing to a 12-4 lead early on. The Longhorns repeatedly got the ball down on the block and allowed senior forward Shaquille Cleare and freshman forward Jarrett Allen easy looks at the basket.
Foul trouble became an issue for Baylor as junior guard Manu Lecomte and junior forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. spent most of the first half on the bench with two fouls.
But the Bears clawed their way back into the game and took their first lead of the game after back-to-back three-pointers by junior guard Al Freeman and sophomore guard Jake Lindsay. After this momentum shift, Baylor never looked back.
With several of its key players in foul trouble, Baylor got a huge boost from its bench. Junior forward Nuni Omot scored a season-high 14 points, and Lindsay dished out a team-high seven assists.
Baylor men’s basketball head coach Scott Drew knows that everyone on the team is capable of stepping up, including Omot.
“Nuni obviously stepped up,” Drew said. “It obviously takes a team to win. We’re always going to have different people throughout the year step up, and tonight was his night to step up. He did a really good job for us.”
Omot credits his teammates for finding and creating scoring opportunities for him.
“When I got in, I told myself I needed to play as hard as possible,” Omot said. “My teammates, obviously did a really great job of finding me in the right spots, and I had to reward them by finishing when I got the ball.”
Freeman also finished in double figures, chipping in with 10 points for the Bears.
For the Longhorns, the narrative completely changed in the second half. It was Texas who found its lack of depth exposed as the fouls began to mount against them. Cleare was the first to be disqualified as he picked up his fifth foul with 11 minutes left in the game. He finished with 14 points.
Much of the credit was due to the elevated defensive intensity in the second half, as well as Baylor’s ability to finish in the post and draw fouls on Texas’ postmen.
Baylor was also much better defending the Longhorns’ three-point shooters. The Bears held Texas to two of 19 from beyond the arc after allowing 35 made three-point field goals over its last four games.
Allen led the way with 17 points, and freshman guard Andrew Jones added 15 for the Longhorns.
Texas head coach Shaka Smart said that his team played well for most of the first half but Baylor’s run took the life out of them.
“The game shifted about three quarters of the way through the first half,” Smart said. “There was an energy shift, and that’s what led to Baylor’s run.”
Texas dropped to 7-11, 1-5 in the Big 12. They look to rebound when they take on the top-ranked Jayhawks at 6 p.m. Saturday in Lawrence, Kan.
Sixth-ranked Baylor improved to 17-1, 5-1 in the conference. The Bears return to action at 7 p.m. Saturday at TCU. The game will be aired on ESPNU.