Dexter Pittman made his first career start, but a vastly-improved, guard-oriented Baylor team was in position for its first win against Texas of the Rick Barnes' era. These Bears were almost bad news, jumping to a 14-point lead against a Texas team that still appeared shell-shocked from Wednesday's stinker at Texas A&M. This time, however, James gave his club a much-needed boost with Texas clinging to a 60-59 lead with seven minutes left. James accounted for six points, one blocked shot and a defensive board during the next 1:13 as Texas finally get separation from the visitors.
"Damion obviously had a very good game and really hurt us," Bear coach Scott Drew said.
James finished with 17 points (6-of-14 FG), a team-best eight rebounds, played tenacious defense and, presumably, regained his starting spot.
"I thought Damion really responded well," Barnes said. "He did the things he needed to do. He was flying around and he made some athletic plays."
James was one of four Longhorns to score in double figures. A.J. Abrams tied for a game-best 20 points (6-of-12 FG). F Connor Atchley added 14 points (6-of-11 FG) while F Gary Johnson finally looks comfortable in a Texas uniform. The freshman contributed 12 points and tied his career-best with seven boards in 19 minutes of work.
"Gary's pace was terrific," Barnes said. "He settled in well."
Guard D.J. Augustin's pace remains a little off-kilter. Augustin was just 1-of-7 from the floor, but converted 6-of-8 foul shots while adding seven assists.
"I thought he played too fast at A&M and too slow today," Barnes noted. "He needs to get back to that middle ground."
Barnes has never lost to the Waco school during his 10 seasons in Austin, raising his record against against the Bears to 21-0. But Saturday's contest marked Baylor's first-ever game against Texas as a ranked team -- in fact, the Bears have been ranked in consecutive weeks for the first time in program history -- but the No. 25 Bears have now dropped two straight since its five-overtime win at Texas A&M on January 23. No. 25 Baylor fell to 16-4 on the year, 4-2 in Big 12 Conference action while Texas improved to 17-4, 4-2 in league play.
Texas shot 41.9 percent (26-of-62) from the field, including 9-of-21 from three-point range (42.9 percent). Free throw shooting remains an adventure for the Horns, going 19-of-29 (65.5 percent). After starting hot, Baylor finished with a 41.7 percent (25-of-60) shooting day. The Bears connected on 8-of-25 three-pointers (32 percent), but hit only two treys in the second period. Baylor was awarded just 17 free throws, converting 14 (82.4 percent). Texas won the battle of the board, 33-31
Pittman made his presence known early when he blocked BU's first attempt and then followed with his lay-in for the first points of the afternoon. But the Bears opened red-hot from three-point range, draining 4-of-6 treys to grab an early 24-11 lead. Meanwhile, Texas misfired on 10 of its next 15 attempts and committed six turnovers in the first 10 minutes.
"Coach has been saying that if we want to get ahead, we need to play like we're behind," Abrams said. "Unfortunately, we got behind today."
Senior G Aaron Bruce, Baylor's three-point specialist, was whistled for his third personal with his team leading 28-16 with 8:12 remaining until halftime. Abrams' trey sparked an 8-0 Texas run to narrow the Baylor lead 31-25. A fired-up James followed his three-ball with a traditional three-point play to make it 38-33 Baylor. The Bears took a four-point lead into the locker room after shooting 50 percent (14-of-28), including 6-of-13 treys.
Bruce picked up his fourth personal just 2:40 into the second period just before Atchley's straight-away trey gave Texas a brief 41-40 lead. Augustin's first FG did not come until there was 15 minutes left, but his NBA-trey regained the Longhorn, 44-43. It was followed by Bear coach Scott Drew getting T'd-up as Abrams sank the foul shots.
Baylor F Kevin Rogers' layup knotted the affair at 53 with little more than 10 minutes left. James followed his slam with a blocked shot and a pair free throws to spot Texas a 64-59 lead at the 6:02 mark. Augustin hit a pair from the charity stripe to make it a 72-66 game with 2:10 on the game clock. Justin Mason's driving layup followed Atchley's dunk to all but put this one on ice, 76-68, Augustin capped the scoring with a pair of FTs with two ticks left,
Texas returns to action 6 p.m. (CST) Wednesday when it travels to Oklahoma. The contest will be televised nationally on ESPN2.