Texas’ 74-64 loss to No. 6 Baylor on Tuesday night was a showcase of two teams going in opposite directions. The Longhorns were unable to break out of their conference play slump, while the Bears continued to look among the Big 12’s elite.
Texas started the first half strong, jumping out to a quick 12-4 lead. The team managed to stay a step ahead of the Bears for much of the frame, thanks to its early success in the paint.
Texas would score its first 16 points in the paint. Senior center Shaquille Cleare paced the Longhorns offensively by inspiring low-post play. Cleare scored 10 points in the first half on perfect 4-of-4 shooting and left defenders scratching their heads with multiple baby hooks.
But Cleare’s effort wasn’t enough to stave off a high-powered Baylor squad. Trailing 27-22 with 5:17 remaining in the first half, the Bears closed the period on a 16–4 run to claim a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Baylor’s run was fueled by back-to-back threes that helped ignite the crowd at Waco’s Ferrell Center. Texas also helped aid the Bear’s burst by turning the ball over four times during the half’s last five minutes.
While the Longhorns were competitive in the first half, the game’s final 20 minutes were a different story. Baylor showed why it’s one of the premier teams in the nation by outmatching the Longhorns.
The Bears established a 42-31 lead early in the half, managing to hold a double-digit advantage down the stretch.
Head coach Shaka Smart was critical of his team’s second-half effort.
“We didn’t do a good job getting back to the level of energy and fight we had to start the game,” Smart said. “I think some of that had to do with some plays on offense not going our way, but you go on the road and try to beat the No. 6 team in the country and you’re leading for the majority of the first half, you can’t worry about that stuff.”
Baylor hounded the Longhorns defensively, consistently forcing the team into difficult shots. On the other end, Baylor bullied Texas into submission. The Bears made a living in the paint and were a force on the offensive boards.
Texas allowed 42 points in the paint and was completely decimated on the offensive glass — it lost that battle 17-7.
The Longhorns’ struggles in those departments can be traced to one source: Baylor’s junior forward Johnathan Motley. The forward was unstoppable all night and put on a show in front of the
Motley scored 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting and pulled down 20 boards. He also swatted away three Longhorn field goal attempts.
Even Motley was speechless by his performance.
“It’s kind of hard to explain, like you don’t really remember what you do — you’re just kind of out there,” Motley said. “I can’t tell you the moves I make, like I literally can’t. It’s just a crazy rhythm you get as a basketball player. Just one of those things you can’t explain.”
Cleare anchored the Longhorn front court and finished the game with 14 points. He fouled out midway through the second half. Freshman forward Jarrett Allen scored 17 points and had 10 rebounds, good for his sixth double-double of the season.
Texas stays on the road and squares off against another daunting foe in No. 2 Kansas on Saturday. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. in Lawrence, Kansas.