Down to just six scholarship players (none of whom are seniors), Baylor may be the only D-I team with a more depleted roster than Texas. A scrappy Bear team mounted spirited runs in both the first and second periods but, both times, the Horns had an answer. It usually came in the form of F Brad Buckman. The junior was one rebound shy of his fifth straight double-double with 19 points (5-of-8 FG, 9-of-11 FT) and nine boards. He was one of three Longhorns scoring in double figures as G Kenny Taylor added 14 points and a team-high seven assists during his final appearance at the Ferrell Center while freshman G Daniel Gibson contributed 13 points (4-of-5 FG). Taylor, of course, began his career in a Baylor uniform before transferring two seasons ago.
"You can have a tremendous affect on a basketball game without making 3-point shots. You look at his line and he had seven assists, three turnovers. Kenny was terrific tonight," Barnes said. "He really was and what I'm happy about most of all is the fact that I can tell him after the game that you didn't have a great shooting night but you made a tremendous effect on the game."
Buckman credited his senior teammate for his standout performance.
"Kenny played a great game tonight. Without him I don't think I would have had half my points tonight," Buckman said. "He got everybody open. He got me and Jason, Syd and everybody else open. He was slashing and driving, and I owe it all to (Kenny)."
The Texas head coach also lauded his guards' play against Baylor's triangle-and-two zone, adding that it was also freshman F Mike Williams' best game. The stat sheet will show 2-of-2 FG and 3-of-4 FT but will not reflect the first real signs of the kind of offensive-mindedness that his coach has been demanding for weeks.
The Horns shot a crisp 24-of-43 (55.8 percent) from the field while holding Baylor to 20-of-55 (36.4 percent). Texas knocked down 19-of-24 (79.2 percent) from the line while the Bears went to the charity stripe 18 times, hitting 12. Texas outrebounded Baylor, 36-25. The bugaboo for the Horns continues to be sloppy ball handling. Texas was guilty of 14 giveaways, leading to 15 fastbreak points, while Baylor committed just seven turnovers.
Baylor took an early 5-2 lead off the inbounds play to F Tim Bush. Guard Roscoe Biggers knocked down consecutive treys to add to the Baylor lead, 11-6, before Gibson drained an NBA three. Gibson's shot from beyond the arc gave the Horns their first lead, 15-14, with just under 11 minutes remaining until half time. Buckman's lay-in extended the Texas cushion, 19-14. Senior G Kenton Paulino's three-ball from the top of the key opened up a double-digit UT lead, 24-14 as part of an 18-1 Texas run. When Kenny Taylor drained a straightaway trey to open up a 27-14 advantage, Texas had connected on four-of-eight from three-range and nine of its last 10 FG attempts.
Then things got sloppy for the Horns. G Aaron Bruce, who leads all freshman scorers in D-I hoops with his 17.7 ppg, ignited a 10-2 Baylor uprising with his layup off the Texas turnover. (For the game, the Australian tied Buckman for leading scorer honors with 19 points (5-of-17 FG).) Bruce then stepped in front of Buckman's inbounds pass and drew Buckman's frustration foul. (The Longhorn junior spent the remainder of the period on the bench). Bruce swished both foul shouts before Mike Williams' turnover lead to Tim Bush's shot from outside of the line.
Williams hit two free throws, but F Tim Bush answered with a traditional three-point play. Suddenly, the Bears were within 33-29 of a Texas team beset by a four-minute bout of attention deficit disorder. The Horns regained their focus long enough to end the opening period with a Jason Klotz jumper in the paint to take a 35-29 lead into the locker room.
Texas opened the second period with another turnover and C Tommy Swanson's trey brought the Bears within 35-32. But the Horns started to pound the ball inside as Buckman got Texas untracked with his drop-step bucket in the paint. He drew Bush's third personal on Texas' next trip down the court and sank both foul shots, 39-33. Buckman then followed with his third slam of the contest to push the lead back to eight.
Another Texas turnover led to a Richard Hurd FG. Buckman's jumper made it a 43-35 game as the junior scored the first eight points of the second frame for Texas. The Horns rebuilt a double-digit lead, 45-35, after Taylor kissed it off the glass. Paulino answered Bruce's trey with a three-ball of his own. But then Bruce converted a traditional three-point play to spark the Baylor faithful to their feet as the Bears drew within 48-41.Texas coach Rick Barnes called time-out after Mark Shepherd's layup went virtually uncontested and made it a two-possession game, 48-43.
Here, you knew Barnes would insist that Texas start working the ball inside. Buckman got whacked on the feed from Taylor before sinking both foul shouts. Buck then skied for the defensive board on the other end, leading to Taylor's baseline jumper to stake a 52-43 UT lead.
Texas wasn't going to lose at Baylor, but it can be argued that the turning point in this one came when Texas posted a five-point possession late in the second period. Gibson knocked down his third trey of the evening just as Swanson was whistled for his fourth personal. Klotz collected both FTs to give the Horns a 59-45 lead. Sydmill Harris came off the bench to swish a trey to make it 62-47.
Bush's three-ball brought the Bears within 66-56. Gibson followed his FTs with a driving layup as Texas held the Bears at arms length, 68-56. Taylor's desperation heave as the shot clock expired was the dagger as Texas sported a 72-59 lead. Klotz closed out the scoring with a pair of foul shots.
The Horns travel to Texas Tech, 7 p.m., Tuesday, for an ESPN2 national broadcast. The Red Raiders and Oklahoma (which hosts 10-2 Kansas Monday) are tied for third in the Big 12 with 8-4 league marks, one game better than Texas.