"We don't want that," Hamilton said.
"I don't want to be No. 1," parroted Thompson. "I'm enjoying (No.) 3."
Luckily for them, the Longhorns will probably be safe. Kansas, courtesy of a blowout win over Iowa State, will likely assume the No. 1 spot thanks to the Jayhawks' one loss — compared to Texas's three — despite the fact that the Longhorns beat the Jayhawks by double-digits in Lawrence earlier this year.
That Texas is even in that conversation comes from the Longhorns' success in holding off a late comeback attempt, the exact thing that Ohio State failed to do in its 71-67 loss at Wisconsin Saturday. Ohio State let a 15-point advantage slip through its fingers, while Texas held on after Baylor nearly erased a 16-point lead.
After the first half, Texas appeared to be on its way to another blowout victory over an out-manned opponent. The Longhorns went into halftime up 38-22 after shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 60 percent from behind the arc. Jordan Hamilton appeared to be unstoppable, putting in 12 points, while Tristan Thompson had eight and J'Covan Brown seven.
"I think everybody realizes defensively they do a really good job," said Baylor coach Scott Drew. "Their defense is outstanding."
But in the second half, everything changed. The Bears switched out of their trademark matchup zone and went with straight man-to-man. That switch obviously helped defensively, with Texas shooting an ice-cold 6-for-22 from the field. It also helped put the clamps on Hamilton and Brown, who combined to score nine second-half points.
The Longhorns free throw shooting woes also caught up with them. They went to the free throw line a whopping 31 times in the half, to Baylor's seven, but seemed to miss big shot after big shot that would have allowed them to pull away. When Baylor was hit with consecutive intentional foul and technical foul calls, Brown made just two of four shots, allowing the Bears to stick around. The Longhorns made just 13-of-23 freebies through the first nearly 18 minutes of the half.
On the other side, meanwhile, Baylor's offense woke up. Dunn became more aggressive, getting to the basket and scoring nearly every way possible. Jones also took advantage, and the two combined for 31 second-half points.
In fact, it was a three-point play from Jones that allowed the Bears to cut the lead to within three at 63-60 with 2:06 left. But the duo together missed Baylor's biggest shots. After two Tristan Thompson free throws upped the lead to 65-60, Jones missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have cut the lead back to three. On the next trip down the court, Dunn's open three-pointer rattled in-and-out, keeping the lead at five.
The Longhorns, for their part, were able to do what they couldn't for much of the day, hitting six-of-eight free throws down the stretch to hold on to the victory.
"Today we missed a couple (free throws)," Hamilton said. "That's just part of the game. You're not going to always make free throws. You're not going to always make shots. But it's the defense, (that's) what matters."
It's that defense, ranked as the nation's best unit, that has allowed Texas to ring up a 22-3 record and perfect 10-0 mark in conference. With Saturday's win over Baylor (16-8, 6-5), the Longhorns are just six games away from becoming just the second team to run through Big 12 play undefeated. Kansas achieved the feat in the 2002 conference season.
"No one's beaten them yet," Drew said. "We all know it starts with defense."
Masterful everywhere but the free throw line, Thompson outplayed Jones, scoring 17 to Jones's 13, grabbing 13 rebounds to Jones's six and finishing with three blocks and two steals to Jones's one and zero. His timing, from a pro perspective, couldn't have been any better. Around 15 NBA scouts were in attendance, hoping to get a look at Jones — projected as the first pick in the draft by some — facing off against arguably the toughest post presence in the league in Thompson.In all, five Longhorns scored in double-digits, with Hamilton also scoring 17. Gary Johnson had 13, while Cory Joseph and Brown each had 11.
Dunn led all scorers with 26, though he took 26 shots to get there, thanks to a great defensive effort from Joseph.
"This is good for us," Thompson said. "This is like a tournament game. So it gets us ready."