LONGHORNS (AND THEIR SEASON) SURVIVE BAYLOR

The Texas Longhorns - and their season - survived Baylor Monday night ... barely.

5 THOUGHTS ON Texas' 61-59 OT WIN OVER NO. 14 Baylor

#1 ... It wasn't pretty. In fact, for 33 minutes, it was ugly for Texas. But the Longhorns overcame a 10-point deficit in the final 6:38 of regulation to pull off a harrowing, 61-59 overtime win over No. 14 Baylor that included 7 players getting ejected (four from UT, three from BU).

After Cam Ridley, Prince Ibeh, Connor Lammert and Kendal Yancy were ejected for leaving the bench following a scrum between Isaiah Taylor and Baylor's Royce O'Neale with 1:57 left in overtime, Taylor hit a floater in the lane with 4.8 seconds left, putting Texas up 61-59.

Then, Myles Turner came up with his sixth block of the game, stuffing Baylor G Kenny Chery's shot attempt at the buzzer to preserve a do-or-die victory for the desperate Longhorns.

Texas was able to climb out of a 10-point hole with ferocious defense anchored by Prince Ibeh (3 blocks, a half dozen more altered) and some big 3s down the stretch, including a game-tying 3 from previously slumping Jonathan Holmes with 1:04 left. Texas then got a huge block from Ibeh and held for the last shot with the game tied 54-54 with 28 seconds left.

But with Javan Felix running the point, the ball ended up in the hands of Holmes beyond the arc, where he ended up with a 25-foot, 3-point attempt that barely drew iron as time expired. 

Texas had the upper hand in overtime until the scrum between Taylor and O'Neale, resulting in 7 players getting ejected, including Yancy (11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists), Ibeh (3 blocks), Ridley (6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block) and Lammert (1 rebound, 1 block) for the Longhorns. But Taylor (7 points in just 15 minutes) and Turner (8 points, 7 rebounds, 6 blocks) came up with the key plays in the final 5 seconds to secure the victory.

 

#2 ... Texas didn't get into the NCAA Tournament Monday. Far from it. But the Longhorns could have been eliminated Monday and stayed alive.

The Longhorns snapped a four-game losing streak and get a much-needed win over a red-hot, ranked opponent in No. 14 Baylor, who had won 7 of 9 coming into Monday night's game, including a 78-66 win over WVU on Saturday. 

The Bears are No. 9 in the RPI, giving Texas (18-12, 7-10 Big 12) a 3-11 record against the RPI Top 50 heading into the Longhorns' regular-season finale Saturday at home against Kansas State.

 

#3 ... The veterans who went missing at KU - senior F Jonathan Holmes and junior PG Javan Felix - made key plays when it mattered against Baylor.

Felix scored all 10 of his points in the second half and overtime, including three well-timed 3s. One of those 3s cut Baylor's 10-point lead to 7 with 6:07 left, igniting a 16-6 run by Texas to close out regulation.

Holmes was just 3-of-12 shooting and hit just 1 of 5 attempts from 3-point range. But the lone 3 hit by Holmes came with 1:04 left and tied the game 54-54 and proved to be the shot that forced overtime.

Rick Barnes was so enamored with Felix and Holmes that he forgot to put Isaiah Taylor back into the game with 28 seconds left in regulation, when UT was holding for the last shot (and the Horns ended up with a bad look at a 3 by Holmes that barely drew iron).

Barnes wouldn't make that mistake again at the end of overtime, when Taylor hit the game-winner with 4.8 seconds left.

 

#4 ... Baylor dominated Texas on the boards for nearly the entire game, but a 1-of-13 shooting drought by the Bears midway through the second half kept the Longhorns within striking distance - barely.

With 13:25 left in the game, BU had more offensive rebounds (17) among its 34 boards than Texas had total rebounds (16, 4 offensive rebounds).

Baylor was dominating in second-chance points and paint points. But the 1-of-13 shooting stretch allowed Texas to hang around, despite UT having a 3:33 scoring drought of its own in the second half.

 

#5 ... When Prince Ibeh gets 15 to 20 minutes per game, he makes the most of it.

Ibeh may have made the defensive play of the season Monday night when he swatted Baylor G Kenny Chery's baseline drive for the potential game-winning shot with 34 seconds left in regulation.

Kendal Yancy grabbed the rebound, and Texas was able to hold for the last shot in regulation (a 3-point miss by Holmes).

Ibeh's presence seemed to grow larger and larger as the second half wore on. Just like his game-turning defense and rebound in the final seconds of UT's win at Kansas State, Ibeh was enormous in Monday night's win over Baylor.

Ibeh should feel right at home getting 15 to 20 minutes on Saturday vs K-State after playing 20 minutes and posting 4 points, 4 rebounds and 4 blocks in UT's 61-57 win in Manhattan.

The 6-11 junior took over the game defensively in the final minutes, including 2 blocks and the game-preserving defensive stand against KSU's Thomas Gipson and rebound with 8 seconds left in a 59-57 game - at the time. Isaiah Taylor hit 2 FTs with 1 second left to make it a 61-57 outcome.

 

ONE FINAL THOUGHT ... If I'm Rick Barnes, who just won his 400th game at Texas, I skip practice on Tuesday and go do something fun as a team, whether it's bowling or some other cut-it-loose-and-laugh team activity. Because it's been obvious to everyone the last month that this team has played uptight, in part, because Barnes has been uptight about the stress and direction of the season.

Now, it's time to come back together and remember how much fun basketball can be. Remember how much this team likes each other and how talented this group can be when they just cut loose and play for the love of the game and each other.

This team needs to catch its breath. I'd make sure the game plan for K-State Saturday is laser focused, but I'd keep the practices as light and short as possible. Let the life come back into this team.

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