Texas Longhorns basketball (10-5, 1-2 Big 12) fell to the Baylor Bears (11-4, 1-2 Big 12) on the road on Thursday afternoon 69-60.
The Longhorns were without star guard Andrew Jones, who has been struggling with an unknown illness.
The first half, however, was a coming out party for freshman sharpshooter Jase Febres, who notched his first career start and expertly filled Jones’ shoes early.
After falling behind 6-2 in the opening minnutes, the ‘Horns jumped back to control most of the first half thanks to three-point shooting and excellent transition offense. Febres exposed Baylor’s zone defense and hit two treys before the first TV timeout, and Eric Davis added an early three of his own.
Texas was 6-13 on three-point shooting in the first half, and forced seven Baylor turnovers.
Conversely, Baylor shot 2-9 from behind the arc and managed only four turnovers in the first half off a Texas team that is prone to coughing up the ball.
Still, the Bears continued to battle back, never letting Texas’ lead grow to more than seven points in the first half. After falling behind 40-33, the Bears closed the first half with a five point stretch that was capped off by a huge three by Manu Lecomte in the waning seconds of the half.
Texas headed to the locker room with only a 40-38 lead despite looking like the better team for much of the game. Jase Febres finished his remarkable first half with 18 points on 7-9 shooting.
Baylor carried its run into the second half, going to big man Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. early and going up 44-40.
Texas responded by feeding the ball to Mo Bamba, who had previously been quiet in the game. The ‘Horns clawed back to tie the game at 44 after two Bamba dunks.
Baylor’s Lecomte and Lual-Acuil Jr. continued to torch the ‘Horns, however, as Baylor responded with a 9-2 run to go up 53-46.
Texas responded with a 7-2 run of its own capped off by a Dylan Osetowski three to pull the ‘Horns to 55-53 with 8:48 to go.
It was a battle the rest of the way. Baylor reached back to a 63-57 lead, but Bamba responded with a huge three at the top of the key with around five minutes remaining to bring Texas back to within three.
However, it was all Baylor from there as the Bears finished the game on a six point run to win 69-60.
Texas’ offense was simply too stagnant in the waning minutes of this one, as the ‘Horns struggled to find a playmaker to turn to without Andrew Jones. The ‘Horns too often ended up having to jack up a three or contested two with the shot-clock winding down, which has become all too familiar this season.
Shaka Smart’s team is now 10-5 (1-2 Big 12) on the year. The ‘Horns will go back home to face No. 16 TCU on Wednesday at 8 pm CST, and will need a hard-earned win in order to stay on track for making the NCAA tournament.
Jase Febres - The player of the game for the ‘Horns, even despite going MIA for much of the second half. Febres was trying not to smile in the first half after lighting it up against the very team he once signed with, as he finished with 18 points on 7-11 shooting. Though he didn’t score in the second, Febres also earned a huge block on Lual-Acuil late in the game. If the ‘Horns’ offense can survive without Jones, Febres will need to be a big part of it.
Mo Bamba - Bamba struggled to cover Baylor’s Lual-Acuil for much of the game, but came in to his own in the second half. Bamba did most of his work right at the basket, serving as the recipient of alley-oops and as a clean-up man at the basket. He also hit a big three with five minutes to go to draw Texas within three. He finished with 15 points, 13 of which came in the second half.
Dylan Osetkowski - Osetkowski can at times have suspect decision making (see: fouling on a three-point shot, untimely missed bunnies), but the Tulane transfer is still the glue of this Texas team. The big man had his moments in this one, but finished with only eight points on 3-12 on shooting.
Eric Davis - Davis is continuing to look more comfortable on the court, but this confidence didn’t lead to a productive outing on Thursday. The Saginaw native went 1-7 on shooting, but knocked down an early three and was 4-4 from the line. Davis looking more confident going towards the basket, which is a dimension to his game the ‘Horns will need.
Matt Coleman - Coleman has been the pure ball-handler the ‘Horns needed this season, and continues to be the passer on highlight reel alley oops. He set Bamba up for a monster dunk in the first half, and had five total assists. However, “Clifford” only shot 3-8 on the game (and 0-3 on threes), and coughed up three turnovers.
Kerwin Roach - Roach had one of his worst games in a Longhorn uniform, even despite a signature highlight dunk. Snoop forced the action way too much in this one, leading to four points on 2-12 shooting. Roach also had three turnovers.
Jericho Sims - Sims still looks raw out there, and didn’t see action in the second half. The freshman finished with two points on 1-3 shooting.
Royce Hamm Jr. - Hamm is continuing to get playing time ahead of James Banks for back-up big man minutes, but only saw the floor for a brief spell in the first half.