AUSTIN, Texas — The No. 21 Texas Longhorns played a tougher, more physical game than they did in a blowout in Waco two weeks ago, but the No. 3 Baylor Bears made more shots down the stretch in the 68-61 win at the Erwin Center on Monday in front of a sellout crowd, including three big baskets down the stretch during a decisive 9-0 run starting with 5:21 remaining and the game tied.
Baylor guards Adam Flagler and James Akinjo combined for seven of those points — a nifty up-and-under layup by Flagler followed by a three in transition and a jumper by Akinjo — as they dominated the second half. And Texas was unable to respond with shot making of their own going almost five minutes without a basket.
During that stretch, senior forward Timmy Allen, senior guard Marcus Carr, and senior guard Courtney Ramey all combined to miss four layups and Carr missed two threes. By the time that senior forward Christian Bishop finally finished a layup on Ramey’s miss, Texas was down 63-56 with 1:36 remaining and the game was effectively over.
“Obviously the outcome of the game is disappointing for us, but it cannot and it should not take away from the last game ever at the Erwin Center, a sellout, a great environment, two top-25 teams playing,” Texas head coach Chris Beard said. “I thought it was a great game, a great atmosphere... I know our players and our team wanted so badly to win this game for people other than ourselves.”
Instead, the Bears won for the 12th time in the last 13 games against the Longhorns.
In the second half, Flagler scored 16 points with four three-pointers and Akinjo added 15 points, eight rebounds, and three assists, playing a high-level floor game as he attacked Texas bigs on switches.
Even when Baylor missed shots, especially right after halftime, the Bears dominated on the offensive glass, finishing the second half with nine offensive rebounds and 15 second-chance points. Both Flagler and Akinjo attributed the second-half success to effective halftime adjustments as Baylor spread the court, let Akinjo work, and took advantage of smaller Texas players trying to block out bigger opponents.
By the under-12 timeout, Baylor had seven offensive rebounds and 10 second-chance points in the second half. The Bears also cut down on turnovers in the second half, finding their footing against a Longhorns defense that often trapped ball handlers on pick-and-roll actions and limiting easy baskets by Texas in transition.
Meanwhile, Longhorns head coach Chris Beard estimated that 17 or 18 of the 23 three-point attempts were good looks Texas wants to take every game, but his team just couldn’t convert, shooting only 17.4 percent from beyond the arc. Carr had three of the makes on eight attempts as senior guard Andrew Jones was 0-for-7 shooting and senior guard Jase Febres was 1-for-7 shooting.
“You know, people don’t like to hear, it but basketball is a game of making shots,” Beard said. “It really is. Tonight, Jones, Febres, and Ramey got some great looks.”
Texas wasn’t good enough on their “finish” shots, either — attempts around the rim, where the Horns have a goal to convert at an 80-percent rate. On Monday, they fell short, converting 11-of-19 layups, well short of the target at 57.9 percent. In a rugged, physical game with plenty of contact, Texas also lost the ball several times on potential fouls, though Beard wasn’t willing to make excuses after the game, once again emphasizing the need for his players to demand foul calls from the officials.
Allen, who finished 3-of-9 shooting with most of his misses coming around the basket, also admitted that he might have missed some open shooters, but as Beard noted, those shooters were missing, too.
In the first 10 minutes, the team’s combined for nine turnovers and Baylor had a scoreless drought of more than six minutes, settling mostly for long jumpshots and missing. Texas struggled to take advantage, suffering through three and a half minutes without a point, finally broken by Allen at the free-throw line after an aggressive drive to the basket. When Allen found Jones alone under the basket for a layup, the lead was up to 16-9 for the Longhorns at the under-eight timeout thanks to the slow 8-0 run.
Texas was largely able to defend without fouling as Baylor missed eight of its first nine three-point attempts and the Bears weren’t able to impact the Longhorns around the basket as much as in the loss in Waco, failing to block a shot until the final shot attempt of the first half.
Carr ignited the crowd with a lob to Bishop for a dunk and Ramey made his first basket on a fadeaway jumper with 5:23 remaining in the first half, but wing Kendall Brown kept Baylor close, hitting a three and then finishing through contact at the under-four timeout, but couldn’t convert the free throw.
we just can't get enough of this slam pic.twitter.com/avcoOEWdwh— #21 Texas Men's Basketball (@TexasMBB) March 1, 2022
Keyed by Brown, the Bears start heating up from the field, hitting 6-of-8 shots to take a 27-26 lead with 1:11 remaining in the half. Brown finished the first half with a game-high 12 points, enough to allow Baylor a chance to win over the final 20 minutes, which they did, outscoring Texas 41-31.
“We’ve just got to turn the corner in March — that’s always been our plan,” Beard said. “So it hurts tonight, but we wake up tomorrow and play basketball for the University of Texas.