The No. 3 Baylor Bears defeated the No. 21 Texas Longhorns, 68-61, in a Big 12 men’s basketball game at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, on Monday.
Baylor (25-5, 13-4 in Big 12) won its second straight game over a ranked team after moving up to No. 3 in the latest AP Top 25 poll. Adam Flagler and James Akinjo led the way for the Bears, scoring 19 points each. Forward Flo Thamba scored 21 points while forward Kendall Brown added 13 points. Baylor swept Texas for the season in the Longhorns’ final game at the Frank Erwin Center.
Texas (21-9, 10-7) got 13 points each from Marcus Carr and Christian Bishop, and another 10 points from Timmy Allen, the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week. Bishop added 11 rebounds for a double-double. But that wasn’t enough to overcome Texas’ awful 3-point shooting.
Here are our three thoughts from the game.
Bears Keep Their Rotation Tight
Baylor coach Scott Drew would love to have a healthy Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and LJ Cryer, and there’s a chance that the latter could happen (Cryer was a game-time decision before being ruled out again). But, working with seven players that have defined their roles and have good chemistry with one another does have its advantages. Baylor has shown that the past two games.
The Bears’ guards drove the bus once again. Adam Flagler and James Akinjo had matching scoring games and shot nearly 50 percent combined. Flagler poured in five 3-pointers. Akinjo had a team-leading eight rebounds and seven assists. Forward Flo Thamba hit double figures for the second straight game, and he’s clearly found a way to flourish without Tchamwa Tchatchoua. Freshmen Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan seem to alternate good performances. Brown had the big game on Monday, but Sochan had 17 points against Kansas on Saturday.
Then you fill in whatever you can with Matthew Mayer and Dale Bonner. Mayer only scored two points, but he had seven rebounds. Bonner didn’t score, but you need him to spell Flagler and Akinjo. He played 12 minutes and only had one turnover.
I’m not sure how sustainable this is as the calendar turns to March. But Baylor has now won four straight games and the last two against ranked teams. I recall a Big 12 team with a short bench a few years ago making it to the Final Four. Kansas, I think it was? Some guard named Devonte Graham leading the way? Stranger things have happened.
But, clearly, Baylor is going to be put up an incredible fight to defend its national title, no matter how few players it has.
A Less-Then-Stellar Sendoff
The Frank Erwin Center is not Allen Fieldhouse, but it’s been the home of Texas basketball since the late 1970s, and the Longhorns had hoped to send it off with a better performance than Monday. Timmy Allen didn’t have a ‘player of the week’ kind of game, but what really sank the Longhorns was their awful 3-point shooting — 4-of-23, or 17.4 percent. This is a trend for Texas, and not just in the Chris Beard era. Texas was not a consistently good 3-point shooting team under Shaka Smart, either. Don’t get me wrong — Texas has its moments. Marcus Carr had three of them tonight. But, as a team, the past three or four seasons Texas has been an average team from the arc. I don’t need data to convey that. I’ve watched five seasons’ worth of games.
Average from the 3-point line isn’t good enough in college basketball, especially if you want to win a national title. It’s part of the equation. Look at how it changed the game for Baylor on Monday, and the Bears only made five more 3-pointers than Texas. But when the Longhorns make four and the Bears make nine, that’s a 15-point difference in a seven-point game.
Beard’s priority this season has to be to find consistent, above-average 3-point shooting. I believe he and the Longhorns won’t get farther as a program without it.
Baylor hosts Iowa State in its final game of the regular season on Saturday, while Texas will be in Kansas. By Saturday, Baylor will know if it has a shot at a share of the Big 12 title (Kansas must lose one of its remaining three games for that chance to exist). For now, Baylor remains in second place, a game ahead of Texas Tech. If the Bears win on Saturday, they will be no worse than the No. 2 seed in Kansas City.
As for Texas, the Longhorns are a game ahead of TCU for fourth place. Texas could lose to Kansas on Saturday. But, TCU needs to win all three of its games this week to tie Texas for fifth place, and it doesn’t matter because the Horned Frogs lost twice to the Longhorns. Texas could end up tied with Texas Tech for third place (Texas would need to win and Tech would need to lose twice more), but since Tech has the tiebreaker, Texas looks like it will be the No. 4 seed in Kansas City.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.