AUSTIN (KXAN) — Every night in the Big 12 Conference is a rock fight, and No. 10 Texas prevailed in the latest example 76-71 over No. 11 Baylor on Monday at Moody Center.
Jabari Rice scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, including a 4-for-5 performance from 3-point range, to help lift the Longhorns over the hump. In the postgame interview with ESPN, Rice said he’s being more aggressive coming off back-to-back 21-point games against Tennessee on Saturday and now Monday against the Bears.
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“My teammates are telling me to be more aggressive and trusting me a lot more,” Rice said. “I’m trusting the work I put in every day.”
Perhaps the most impressive part of the win was the Longhorns’ defense against one of the most dynamic backcourts in the country. While LJ Cryer scored 19 points for the Bears, he needed 17 shots to do it, and Keyonte George scored 17 points on 18 shots. Texas forced them to take tough shots the entire night and the duo shot a combined 12-for-35. As a team, Baylor shot 25-for-68 from the field for 36.8%. Texas shot 26-for-55 from the field and 8-for-22 from 3-point range.
Timmy Allen played another great game for the Longhorns with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting with six rebounds and four assists. Allen kept the Longhorns steady in the first half with 12 points and he was in the middle of a physical battle down low.
“Whatever it takes in the Big 12, every night it’s like this,” Allen said. “Coach challenged us on defense, and we had to respond physically and mentally.”
Baylor was heating up in the first half from 3-point range, shooting 6-for15 from long range, but they hit just two 3-pointers in the second half as the Texas perimeter defense tightened up.
Texas’ leading scorer Marcus Carr scored just five points on 2-for-8 shooting, but one of the buckets he made was a big one. With 0:27 remaining and the Longhorns leading 72-71, Carr hit a tough stepback jump shot with a defender’s hand in his face from about 20 feet to stretch the lead to 74-71. Carr was part of the perimeter players that had to defend not just Cryer and George but also Adam Flagler for Baylor, and while he didn’t take a lot of shots, he helped the team on the defensive end.
Tyrese Hunter chipped in 13 points for Texas on a tough night from the field at 5-for-17, but he was another guy that emptied his tank on the defensive end and hit timely shots.
“I was really proud of our guys and how they responded from getting beat on Saturday,” Longhorns interim head coach Rodney Terry said. “We got off the mat and played hard.”
With Iowa State’s overtime loss to Texas Tech, the win moves the Longhorns into first place in the Big 12 Conference with a 7-2 record. Terry said while that’s nice, the Big 12 is the toughest conference in college basketball this season and the Longhorns have a tough of road games ahead of them at No. 7 Kansas State and No. 8 Kansas.
“January is the grind, and you have to embrace the grind,” Terry said. “We needed to find a way to get this thing done. Our staff did a great job of getting the guys to hold the rope and play at a high level.”