The final score was 68-61.
Baylor’s defense throttled Texas down the stretch of the game as Akinjo and Flagler asserted themselves on offense, and Baylor road a 9-0 run in the final five minutes to pull away from Texas as the Longhorns went nearly 5 minutes without a score and missed 8 straight shots.
Showing the balance of this ravaged roster, James Akinjo 19 pts, 8 rebs, 7 asts) and Adam Flagler (19 pts, 5-7 3PT) took over the game in the second half in a game Baylor won by nearly double-digits (a garbage three from Carr, notwithstanding) despite losing the bench point battle 13-3 and the points off turnovers 18-5. Flagler’s three-point shooting and Akinjo’s determined drives inside gave Baylor the offense it needed despite the prowess of Texas’ half court defense.
Had Carr not hit the garbage three in the final seconds, Baylor would have had back-to-back 10 point victories over top 25 teams in 3 days with a short bench. That’s a tough feat for any team but so indicative of the winning mentality that Scott Drew has instilled in this team.
Nearing the halfway point of the second half, the teams traded the lead back and forth as the offense started flowing at last. Another Thamba offensive rebound led to a Flagler three and a 40-39 Baylor lead. Carr answered with a three of his own for a 2-point lead, then Akinjo floated it high off the glass to tie it at 42. Sochan scored his first point of the game the next possession going 1-2 from the line, giving Baylor the one-point lead. Then again: Allen hit a layup and Flagler answered with his third three of the half.
Neither team could pull away until Baylor went on its run in the final five minutes, trading threes, layups, free throws, and turnovers.
The first half was a bogged down affair. Neither team could get on a real roll, and even the runs weren’t exactly inspiring. The score was 16-11 with 12 minutes played. Texas had an 8-0 run that took nearly 6 minutes to accomplish. Painful. Baylor’s 7-0 run took just 2 minutes and included Kendall Brown’s second three of the half. He had 12 points for the Bears in the half (and 13 points for the game as he struggled with foul trouble) as he and Flo Thamba (12 pts, 6 rebs, 2 blks) were the two most reliable players finishing in the paint.
The edge in the first half for Texas came in transition and off the bench. Texas led in bench scoring 13-0 at the break and had a 4-0 advantage on the fast break. Sochan was scoreless on just 2 shot attempts. Baylor was just 2-3 from the line, while Texas had 8 attempts from the line but made only 4 of them.
One nifty first half wrinkle from Drew: Flagler cut from wing into the paint to draw his help, Akinjo took his man off the dribble into the empty space for the layup. 27-26 Baylor lead. The double teams were a problem for Akinjo early, so Drew ran a play that didn’t allow the extra help to come. That sort of scheming helped keep Akinjo out of the double-teams throughout the rest of the game.
Baylor has just 7 rotation players available now, and it’s a testament to their talent and toughness that they can win games in which players trade off bad offensive nights. Mayer and Sochan, who combined on Saturday to score 26 with 18 rebounds, had a combined 5 points and 11 rebounds tonight. But both played committed defense even when their shot wasn’t falling.
Baylor has one game remaining on the regular season. The Bears will face Iowa State. The teams last played on January 1st to open conference play, the pre-game appetizer to that wonderful Sugar Bowl victory. The Cyclones haven’t faired well in Big XII play, but there are no easy games. This will be another test against an NCAA Tournament team.
At least the Bears have more than one day off before then.