Baylor (19-1, 7-1) survived an awful shooting night from the field to defeat Texas Tech (14-5, 3-5) 65-61. Johnathan Motley led the Bears with 25 points and finished 15 of 16 from the line.
It was only fitting a Big 12 game had a perplexing ending. Baylor led Tech by two with seven seconds left. Texas Tech attempted a 3-point shot, which Ish Wainright blocked as cleanly as a fed up person on Twitter. Yet, a whistle blew. It seemed a foul had been called, and Baylor was about to be the victim of one of the worst calls imaginable. Given this is the Big 12, a review followed. We all waited. Would this call cost Baylor a vital game? As the minutes and anticipation turned to anger, the refs returned to inform the world the whistle was inadvertent, and Baylor would have the ball out of bounds. Two Al Freeman free throws later, the Bears walked away with the victory. That sequence may never happen again, and hopefully the Bears will never shoot this poorly again.
This game seemed like it would be easy. Baylor raced out to a 12-2 early lead. It looked like this one would be a blowout, as the Bears made this happen early:
But this was a constant struggle. The Bears went over 10 minutes without a field goal in the first half. On several occasions, the Bears ended up with a good look. But they just couldn’t hit a shot. They were down to 30% from the field 18 minutes into the game. Fortunately, Baylor was able to get to the line over that stretch, and the Bears went into halftime with the lead.
Baylor came out in the second half and got the ball to Motley. Motley opened the half getting to the line and making shots. He also found Jo Lual-Acuil on this big play:
The Bear’s offense continued to struggle though. During that time, Motley and Nuni Omot were the only reliable offensive options. Omot had his best game as a Bear. Omot finished with seven points. He was aggressive and played superb defense. He fought for loose balls and collected big offensive rebounds. That was exactly the kind of performance Baylor needed to survive a shooting night like this. Lual-Acuil also contested a number of looks, which kept the Bears in the lead while their shots weren’t falling.
With 6:15 left in the game, Omot was called for a blocking foul, which turned into a Tech 3-point play. Omot was knocked over on the play, then somehow called for a block after the shot went in. Tech stole the ball, and pulled with one point. On the next possession, Jake Lindsey fired a 3-point shot and it went in. And with it, the Bears pulled back out to a four point lead.
Baylor managed to win despite shooting 35.4% from the field. They won despite shooting 5 of 21 from 3-point range. They won despite King McClure still being out with an injury. But the Bears have Motley. Motley may be the best player in the country, and he found a way to get to the line. The rest of the Bears found a way to get to the line too. In total, Baylor went 26 of 28 from the charity stripe. That’s enough to survive and advance.
Baylor plays Ole Miss on Saturday as part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge. After that, the Bears will head to Lawrence. They’re tied with the Jayhawks for first in the conference with this win. If Baylor can pick up their first ever win in Lawrence Wednesday, the Bears would be in sole possession of first place in the Big 12. That’s a lot to ask, but when you survive a game shooting this abhorrently, you actually get that chance.