When Jalen Bridges (17 points, 5-9 3PT) hit the three to tie the game at 73 with 5 seconds remaining, the Baylor Bears (14-4, 3-2) had gone over eight minutes without a field goal. And much like Tuesday night, Baylor’s last-second defense conceded two crucial points to fumble away what could have been a massive road victory 75-73 to the Texas Longhorns (13-5, 2-3).
It would have been sweet to take the win in Baylor’s last game in Austin for the foreseeable future. Alas, whatever offensive flaw Kansas State - and Michigan State before them - exploited, Rodney Terry’s team was able to ride for the final eight minutes of the game. RayJ Dennis had just two points today, but he also had 8 assists with just 2 turnovers, a big enough impact. Langston Love and Ja’Kobe Walter, who had 10 points and 22 points, respectively, were again enormous for Scott Drew attacking downhill to draw fouls and put pressure on the rim. Walter was 9-11 from the line, and Love was the only Bear, it seemed, who could drive to the rim.
Could it be that Dennis doesn’t have the game to be a closer in a physical, athletic league? Or could it be that defenses are selling out to defend the ball handler, and the screener — be it Josh Ojianwuna or Yves Missi — just isn’t able to make them pay for it consistently rolling down the lane? Whatever it is, Scott Drew and Co. need to diagnose what ails this offense quickly if they hope to contend for a third conference title in four years.
It’s somewhat unfortunate for Baylor that on the day they bounce back and shoot 50% from three with 11 of 22 shooting, their opponent goes 9-11 from deep in the first half. Forty-one points in the first half is typically good enough to take a lead into halftime. But the Bears’ top-ten offense was outscored by one point each half and was out-executed in the most crucial moments.
The Bears once again did an admirable job making the other teams leading scorer work for it. Max Abmas got his 15 points on 5-13 shooting and was 1-7 in the second half. But it was Tyrese Hunter, he of the hanging bank shot to win at the buzzer, who killed Baylor with 21. Dylan Disu was the other big piece for Texas with 19 points. He mashed Baylor inside when they switched on screens, something Drew was willing to gamble on after the hot-shooting first half. Disu won the bet, and his consistent production carried Texas through the second half as Baylor failed to take advantage of the relatively inefficient offense.
Baylor is now on a two-game skid that threatens to become a losing streak next week. They will be back in the Foster against the TCU Horned Frogs (13-4, 2-2) next Saturday at 3pm. Hopefully the coaches are able to use the bit of extra time between games to dial in on just what’s ailing this offense.