Taylor Helps 'Horns Overcome FT Woes

Isaiah Taylor scored 14 points and dished out eight assists, while scoring two timely buckets to help Texas hold on against a charging Vanderbilt squad 70-64 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge Monday night.

The Longhorns built multiple double-digit leads and appeared to have control of the game when Taylor found to Jonathan Holmes under the basket for a 54-44 lead with 6:44 left.

"Down the stretch and at the beginning of the game we always want to establish our big men," Taylor said. "Vanderbilt is an experienced SEC team and they got back on defense very quickly. On some of the duck- ins Cameron Ridley, Jonathon Holmes, and Prince Ibeh were wide open, beating their men down the floor so we were able to get them the ball."

But Texas was in the middle of a 3-for-14 stretch from the free throw line, allowing Vanderbilt to come back and cut the lead to three at 57-54 with a Josh Henderson jumper at 2:35.

Taylor stretched the lead back out to eight by converting an and-one on a floater on Texas's next possession, then hitting another floater the next time the Longhorns had the ball. But even an eight-point lead with less than two minutes left isn't safe when a team isn't making its freebies. Two free throws from Austin native Eric McClellan brought Vanderbilt back to within three with 47 seconds left, and McClellan swiped the ball from Javan Felix and broke out for a fastbreak dunk that cut the lead to one.

Felix hit two free throws on Texas's next possession, then McClellan turned the ball over when Vanderbilt had the ball again, with the fumbled pass missing what appeared to be a chance for an open three-point look for the Commodores.

That was as close as it would get. Texas inbounded the ball to Connor Lammert, who fired ahead to a streaking Demarcus Holland. Holland laid the ball in over James Siakam and drew the foul. His free throw made it a six point lead. McClellan countered with a quick layup, but then Holmes hit his final two free throws for the six-point win.

"Isaiah made some good plays, he really did," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "Jon Holmes is so big for us. We are up as much as we had been all game and he dives on the floor after losing two teeth. Those kind of things; that's what we like about this group of guys. Making those kind of plays in the long haul is really going to help us."

Taylor had an impressive 14-point, five-rebound, eight assist night, with Felix and Holland scoring 12 each and freshman Kendal Yancy dropping a career-high 11. Taylor's eight assists were also a career high.

"He is fast," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said of Taylor. "He is really good in transition. The new rules benefit guys like him and our kid McClellan, they are similar in that regard. But Taylor does a good job of pitching it ahead, and driving it ahead which comes with his speed. His speed is a factor when you are trying to get back on defense. He is a good player."

The Longhorns, who entered the game making 61 percent of their free throws on the year, made just 15-of-29 (51.7 percent) of its shots from the line.

That especially hurt when Vanderbilt, a 60-percent shooting team coming in from the charity stripe, made 15-of-21 (71.4 percent). And that made up a big part of why the Commodores were able to stay close despite being out-shot and out-rebounded by the Longhorns.

"Obviously the free throws [were big]," Barnes said. "You look at it on paper and it's 15-for-29, but it's probably more like 15-for-30-something because I know we missed the frontend of some one-and-ones. At the end, again, we found a way to get it done and I think it was a nice win for us."

McClellan had a game-high 22 points, getting 11 of those at the free throw line. Henderson (12) and Rod Odom (11) also scored in double figures. Vanderbilt fell to 4-3 with the defeat.

Texas (7-1) will next travel to play its first true road game — the Longhorns have played two games away from the Frank Erwin Center, but they were on a neutral court at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. This trip will be to Philadelphia to take on Temple (3-3). Tip Saturday is set for 11 a.m.

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