The Texas Longhorns won another game against a ranked opponent, beating the No. 15-ranked Baylor Bears 67-59 in Waco. Rico Gathers led all scorers with 20 points, while Connor Lammert's 15 points led a balanced Texas attack that recorded 21 assists on 21 made field goals.
It was not the first Texas victory against a highly-rated opponent on the road, but this game was decidedly more fun than the foul-plagued win at West Virginia. While Shaka Smart's team led for virtually the entire game, the contest was close, competitive, and well played.
From the opening moments of the game, both teams came out aggressively on offense. Baylor's stars, Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers, were strong from the start, accounting for 12 of the Bears first 16 points. But Texas punched back just as hard, finding space against the Baylor zone. Room was available along the baseline, and early on coach Scott Drew's zone was conceding three-point shots to Isaiah Taylor and Kerwin Roach. Taylor had one early three, and Roach had two, and then Texas was able to find chances inside and along the baseline for everyone else. The Longhorns led 35-29 at the half.
In the second half, things got a little chippy when Gathers put a hard and senseless foul on Prince Ibeh, and Isaiah Taylor got in the Baylor center's face. Double technicals were the prize, and the game got a little extra juice.
The score remained close through the second half, as foul trouble started to catch up with Baylor. Johnathan Motley would foul out on a perhaps questionable moving screen call leaving Baylor to try to defend the interior with Rico Gathers, who also was stuck with four fouls. (While Motley's last foul was iffy, Gathers' fouls were not; Gathers got his money's worth.) Eventually Gathers would foul out as well; his technical foul would prove expensive.
Gathers foul trouble unleashed the Prince Ibeh experience. Texas went inside to Ibeh several times late in the game, as Gathers is a little too small to contend with Ibeh's height, and concerns about fouling enabled the Texas center to bury his Baylor opponent deep in the paint and finish with an emphatic dunk and short lefty bank shot.
There was a lot of drama and some really fun basketball down the stretch. Ibeh and Gathers exchanged enthusiastic dunks. Connor Lammert nailed what looked like a back-breaking three, putting Texas up by six with 47 seconds remaining, and then Lester Medford immediately went down the floor an drained one of his own, keeping the Bears in the game. This is what basketball is supposed to be like.
But ultimately, it would be Baylor's last score, as the Texas defense locked the Bears up on the final three possessions (on two of these possessions, Smart's men seemingly knew Baylor's play as well as the Bears did), and Texas hit enough free throws to put the game away.
It is a hell of a win for the Longhorns, as it puts Texas ahead of schedule from the standpoint of compiling an NCAA tournament resume. Road wins in February are what separate the winners from the wieners, and tonight the Longhorns were not wieners.
- Texas came into the game with a pretty clear plan of how it wanted to attack the Baylor zone, working the ball towards the baseline. It also didn't hurt that when the Longhorns had good looks from the perimeter they hit them. The Longhorns were 8-17 from three, with Lammert leading the way by going 3-4 from long range.
- I joked about the Prince Ibeh experience, but it is real. Ibeh is a completely transformed player, turned loose by a very simple thing -- he has stopped fouling. He is playing with confidence on offense -- tonight he had nine points, a number of which came when he established deep position in the paint. But his defense is really what is noteworthy. His defense perhaps is the single most important factor right now in what is suddenly a really strong Longhorn basketball team. Ibeh blocked five shots tonight and controlled the game once again. The only real blemish was giving up a few offensive rebounds to Gathers. But let's be fair -- Gathers gets to the glass on everyone.
- When a football team scouts a basketball player at a basketball game, what are they really looking for? The Buffalo Bills had someone watching tonight's game with eyes on Gathers. Perhaps the foul he picked up when he dropped Ibeh with a forearm shiver impressed them.
- Let's add Taurean Prince to the list of seniors in the Big 12 that Texas fans will not miss going against. The hardest players to guard are ones who are tall, can shoot, and can attack off the dribble. Texas' game plan was clearly to try to take away the perimeter shot and make Prince beat it off the bounce. He still got loose to shoot some threes (he was 4-7) but several of his makes were highly contested shots that as an opponent you just have to live with. Sometimes good players just make tough shots.
- Down the stretch, Demarcus Holland played Prince extremely well. Prince was mostly quiet during the final ten minutes of the game, and while it was a team effort by the Longhorns, Holland was the Texas player who did the most work.
The Longhorns next play on Saturday afternoon against Texas Tech.
For the next few days, hoops coverage will go dark here at BON while Wescott stalks teenagers on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Pinterest, Etsy, Foursquare, Renren, Angie's List, Urban Spoon, IRC, Usenet, Gopher, LOLCats, FarmersOnly, and Compuserve, and we all remember that fax machines are still a thing.