Baylor Battles Back, Falls 82-77 To No. 11 Texas In Big 12 Thriller

by dentonramsey

Baylor Battles Back, Falls 82-77 To No. 11 Texas In Big 12 Thriller

By Denton Ramsey, NCAA Basketball Sportswriter

 

WACO, Texas — By the time all was said and done, the No. 11 Texas Longhorns (21-4 overall, 8-2 Big 12) escaped Waco with a narrow 82-77 victory over the Baylor Bears (17-7, 5-5) on Saturday evening, Feb. 16 at the Ferrell Center.

With the largest crowd in the gold dome’s history on hand to watch and support the Bears, the Baylor hoops team gave them something to cheer about – despite the final outcome.

“I give credit to two things [on being able to make a run in the final minutes],” Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew said. “Our players showed a lot of heart and a lot of character, and our fans gave us a chance to be in that situation.”

After falling behind 74-61 with 3:39 remaining, the BU basketball team made a remarkable run – cutting the Texas lead to 76-72, with 1:05 left in regulation, after back-to-back threes by LaceDarius Dunn and Henry Dugat.

Shortly thereafter, a Texas miss and a Baylor drive to the basket cut the Horns lead to 76-74 as the Bears’ house erupted.

“From a coach’s standpoint, we did a great job coming back,” Drew said. “I was proud of the team’s effort to give ourselves a chance to get a win down the stretch. I credit Texas for making big plays.

“I told the guys in shoot-around that this program’s back to a point now where you have ESPN, you have the largest crowd in the school’s history, and you’ve got a chance to beat a top-10 program.”

Drew’s Bears did just that – giving themselves a fighting chance after a Texas turnover with 58 seconds left gave the ball back to Baylor.

However, upon regaining possession, Curtis Jerrells was whistled for an offensive foul – with BU’s junior guard fouling out of the game after picking up his fifth personal with 41.8 seconds remaining in regulation.

“They [the Baylor basketball team] have come a long way in a short period of time, and in the last two games where we’ve been over-excited to play, Arkansas and Texas, we didn’t start off shooting the ball very well,” Drew said. “[Shooting] 1-for-17 in the first half [against Texas] doesn’t get it done against a top-10 team, but we played good enough defense and rebounded well enough to give ourselves a chance in the second half.

“The irony is that when the offense came on in the second half the defense shut off. We’ve just got to get them both at the same time.”

With Texas taking a 77-74 lead after hitting one of two from the charity stripe, Tweety Carter answered with a driving layup to make it 77-76 with just under 30 ticks left in the game.

“We haven’t given up all year and I didn’t expect us to give up,” Drew said. “We like to play fast and Texas starting slowing down in the second half and did a good job milking that lead.

“We had to start pressuring and try to create something else, and we were able to get some momentum after we made a couple of shots. They missed some free throws which gave us a chance.”

The Ferrell Center’s crowd roared to life on the ensuing play after a poor inbounds pass by Texas led to a quick turnover – with BU retaining possession and down just one with 28.4 seconds remaining.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Senior Aaron Bruce, a veteran to the game of basketball pretty much since birth, made a big mistake – signaling for an untimely timeout with Baylor having none remaining, resulting in a technical foul against the Bears.

“I don’t think it [the technical] drew any life out of us because he hit one free throw and he missed one,” Rogers said. “We just didn’t make the play to come out with the victory.”

As Rogers mentioned, Texas hit only one of two from the line – once again giving Baylor a chance to tie or take the lead with BU down by just two, 78-76, with the ball in the Bears’ hands.

Bruce quickly made up for his poor decision making on the prior play, making a beautiful drive to the basket before kicking the ball out to an open Dunn – who barely missed a three-point shot that would have given Baylor the lead – before a foul by Kevin Rogers sent Texas to the line for two shots with 20.5 ticks left on the game clock.

“Where I was pleased with Aaron (Bruce) is that he made a mistake, but he didn’t let that one mistake turn into two,” Drew said. “He came back and made a great drive and dished off to LaceDarius (Dunn), who was our best shooter tonight by far. There’s no one you’d rather have with a wide-open shot in that situation. I was proud that Aaron came back after that.”

With the crowd standing to their feet and screaming near the top of their lungs for a Texas miss from the free throw line, UT’s D.J. Augustin hit only one of two to give the Horns a 79-76 lead – and Baylor, amazingly, had another chance to tie the game if the Bears’ could find their touch from long range.

“At the end of the game we didn’t get it done from the free throw line and we made it a lot harder than it had to be,” Texas Head Coach Rick Barnes said. “With the pressure that they applied and the turnovers that they forced, you have to give Baylor credit for that.”

A late whistle on a Carter drive in the lane on the ensuing BU possession put the sophomore guard at the line for a pair of free throws with 16.1 seconds left. Carter used all of the basket’s iron to make the first shot from the stripe before missing the second as UT pulled down the rebound.

Texas’ Augustin then calmly drained a clutch pair of free throws in front of a loud and rowdy BU home crowd, giving the Horns a two-possession lead at 81-77.

“I think over the past few years that we have played Baylor, they have showed that they are never out of the game,” UT guard Justin Mason said. “We haven’t really beaten [Baylor] that badly recently, so we know they are never out of the game.”

After both Carter and Bruce, after a BU offensive rebound, missed desperation three-pointers on the other end, Baylor was again forced to foul Augustin – this time with only 1.1 seconds left and the Bears in a hole too big to climb out of.

“Baylor is a great team,” Augustin said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game coming in. We need to win every road game that we get. This was a great win for us, and we give a lot of credit for Baylor.”

Augustin hit the back end of two from the line before Carter’s half-court heave nearly dropped – bouncing off the back iron – as the Bears lost a home court heartbreaker, 82-77.

“Any time you make a run like that you expect to win,” Carter said. “Texas missed some free throws, and we had a lot of opportunities to win the game, but we just didn’t pull it off.”

According to Rogers, despite the trio of conference losses the team’s confidence level hasn’t dipped as the Bears prepare to face the Sooners on Tuesday night at OU.

“It [our confidence] is definitely still up,” Rogers said. “We can’t let a couple of games get us down because there’s still plenty of season left to go. We can only take things from this game and learn from them and hope we get better before we play Oklahoma.”

The Bears still have plenty of time to regain momentum, with six games remaining in the highly competitive conference before the Big 12 tournament tips off March 13 in Kansas City, Mo.

“This has been a tough week, and you’ve got to be above .500 in the league to normally get to the NCAA [Tournament],” Drew said. “We’re going to get five or six teams in, and our goal is to be in the top half so that we’re in that position.

“I don’t think we played well at Oklahoma State, but I think we played better tonight. Over the last two years we’ve finished very strong, and I look for us to get on a roll pretty shortly here.”

 

Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at denton.ramsey@gmail.com

 

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