In the midst of a four-game losing streak and without junior guard Matt Coleman (bruised heel), the Texas Longhorns responded to adversity with a 70-56 win over the TCU Horned Frogs on Wednesday at the Erwin Center behind a career-high 20 points from freshman forward Will Baker.
After scoring 16 points in his first 17 games with the Longhorns, Baker finally broke through with by far the best performance of his career, hitting 8-of-12 shots and 4-of-6 three-point attempts. Baker entered the game 1-of-25 shooting from distance (4 percent), but raised his three-point percentage by more than 12 points on Wednesday.
Sophomore guard Andrew Jones helped Texas close out the game with four free throws after hitting a key three-pointer to give the Longhorns a seven-point lead with 59 seconds remaining. Jones finished with 21 points to lead Texas.
In front of what could generously be called a sparse crowd at the Erwin Center, TCU got out in transition early, scoring five of the team’s first nine points on the fast break as Texas started out cold from the field, going 2-of-8 shooting as sophomore guard Courtney Ramey put up half of those attempts.
It was Baker who got the Horns going with a put back and two three-pointers in a row. A subsequent post-up opportunity didn’t find the bottom of the basket, but the attention paid to Baker allowed freshman forward Kai Jones to run the baseline for the put-back slam.
Baker even showed his ability off the bounce with a driving slam, then his footwork with a pivoting three to push his point total to 13 as the game closed in on the under-eight timeout and Texas opened up a three-point lead.
It's setting-up to be "The Will Baker Game"— Jeff Jones (@JeffJonesSports) February 20, 2020
The Westlake alum leads all scorers with 15 through the first half. Baker had only scored 16 points this SEASON entering this game. UT trails TCU 38-36 pic.twitter.com/IEpI93EQbG
With Baker providing some spacing, the Texas guards were able to get into the lane and finish without much resistance against the second-worst defense in the Big 12. Andrew Jones also added two threes of his own as the Horns hit their first five attempts from distance.
Both teams were hot from the field — Texas hit seven straight shots as TCU hit seven of nine in the middle stretch of the first half.
A jump shot by Ramey stopped a 6-0 run by the Horned Frogs late in the first half that was keyed by three steals by TCU guard Desmond Bane.
Baker continued to play well early in the second half, hitting another three and flashing off his passing ability by dropping a pinpoint bounce pass to freshman guard Donovan Williams cutting off the ball for a layup.
To the hoop ‼️@STG_Stretch | #AllForTexas pic.twitter.com/C5otpTRsEH— Texas Men's Basketball (@TexasMBB) February 20, 2020
The 7-0 run by Texas forced another timeout by Dixon.
After allowing TCU to shoot 62.5 percent in the first half, the Texas defense tightened up to open the second half, as the Horned Frogs started 3-of-13 shooting and had a shot-clock violation. One stretch included four minutes without scoring and TCU finished the game shooting 24.1 percent in the second half.
Kai Jones hit his second three to stretch the lead to six points at the under-four timeout, the largest margin of the game for Texas and the largest for either team since the 9-2 start by TCU.
The Longhorns weren’t able to quickly close the door with a couple of weak possessions offensively, but the Horned Frogs weren’t scoring either and Jones did his job to ensure the final seconds didn’t feature any drama.
Texas travels to Manhattan on Saturday to face a Kansas State team that looks poised to suffer its sixth straight loss and drop to 2-11 on Wednesday evening.