Roach, Longhorns pummel Big 12 frontrunner Baylor, 84-72

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Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

There’s no place like home.

The Frank Erwin Center has treated the Longhorns kindly — no matter the opponent. The favorable trend prolonged Wednesday night as Texas (13–10, 5–5 Big 12) trampled Baylor (15–7, 6–3 Big 12), 84-72. Texas’ commanding victory over a top Big 12 program extended its home winning streak to three games, a stretch which includes a pair of ranked wins over Oklahoma and Kansas.

“Right now, it’s crunch time in the league,” point guard Matt Coleman III said. “We know how important road wins are. We know how important home wins are, so we just want to take grasp of all of those and just compete with everybody.”

In an effort to build on its dominating six-game win streak, Baylor never secured a lead in the second half and often lagged behind by double-digits. The Longhorns fortified a 45-30 halftime lead behind an efficient, 14-of-23 shooting first half, which included 19 attempts at the free throw line. Texas concluded the night converting 55 percent of field goals, spearheaded by an 8-of-20 showing beyond the arc.

“Defensively, we didn’t have any answers,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “They were really good as far as (shooting guard Kerwin) Roach (II) and Coleman getting into the paint, getting fouled and creating scoring opportunities for themselves. When those two are 11-for-15, they’re really good.”

A concerted effort from the backcourt ushered in Texas’ convincing victory. Roach anchored Texas with a team-high 21 points, and he hit each of his first six field goals in his scoring barrage. Coleman also chimed in with an all-around performance of 18 points, six rebounds and five assists, picking apart Baylor’s 1-3-1 zone defense with his dribbling and ball movement. Defensively, Roach and point guard Courtney Ramey effectively shut down Baylor point guard Makai Mason — who dropped 40 points in his previous outing — to 1-of-7 shooting and three turnovers.

“The games we’ve won, our guards have outplayed the other team’s guards. The games we lost, not as much,” Smart said. “The key is having a serious approach. I use (Grizzlies point guard) Jevon Carter, (Hornets point guard) Devonte Graham, (Kings point guard) Frank Mason with Matt, with (Roach). Every detail on the court that goes into winning was like life or death for those guys. That’s what I’m trying to help Matt and Snoop get to.”

To gain second-half momentum, shooting guard Jase Febres sunk in a trio of timely threes. Texas had a 51-34 stranglehold on the game, but an 11-2 run swung Baylor back into the contest. Then, consecutive 3-pointers by Febres erased the 8-point margin and permitted Texas to enter cruise control for the final 14 minutes. Baylor would never crawl within nine points again thanks to Febres’ surge.

“Even when he misses his first few or he’s struggling in the first half, if you leave him in there over the course of the second half and you’re able to execute and play the right way on offense, he’s gonna get open looks. And he’s probably gonna make some of them,” Smart said.

With another encouraging victory in the Frank Erwin Center, Texas’ next step is sustaining success. The Longhorns
haven’t glued together consecutive victories since the first week of 2019, and they haven’t won a road matchup since Jan. 2, but Smart is already strategizing how the team can amend its errors from previous road letdowns before traveling to
West Virginia.

“To us, it’s about the next game,” Smart said. “The two things I would take out of (the last road) game that we’ve talked about as a team: We have to start the game better so we don’t have a 13-point deficit, and when we fight like crazy to build a lead, it’s all
about finishing.”