Baylor zone confounds Texas as Longhorn guards fail to attack

Chris Hummer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Baylor packed the paint and Texas’ jump shots weren’t falling. That's a negative recipe for the Longhorns on any night, and in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament it proved disastrous.

It’s no secret the Longhorns have difficulty putting up points when teams take away their heavy post presence, and it’s a tactic Baylor executed to perfection. Texas shot a paltry 40 percent from the floor – a number boosted heavily from garbage time baskets — and had a difficult time creating any consistent offensive rhythm.

“We’ve got to play better than that, we got too,” sophomore guard Javan Felix said. “And we have one more chance to show it.”

Texas’ starting backcourt of Isaiah Taylor, Felix and Demarcus Holland combined for 20 points – 16 of which were Taylor’s — a crippling offensive stat for a team that already struggles to create offense on its own. Felix, who has launched 49 more shots than the next closest Longhorn this season, finished the game with a season-low two points on four attempts.

Felix is never shy launching shots, sometimes to Texas’ detriment, but the Longhorns need him to produce consistently to allow their offensive system to find success.

“That’s just my role, and I have to play it better,” Felix said. “I have to do a better job of getting open.”

The Bears’ 1-1-3 zone pushed Texas’ bigs up the floor and forced the Longhorn guards to take shots outside their comfort zone. The three Baylor forwards inside helped take away the Longhorns’ rebounding edge and the Texas guards failed to drive the ball and take advantage of the added space.  

“It was the same type of saggy defense they usually do, and we just didn’t execute,” freshman guard Kendal Yancy said. “We just got to attack, attack more and get into their bigs.”

It was only a slight alteration to the defensive formula Baylor attempted in its first two matchups with Texas this season. But this time, Baylor was aided by starting the game with a big lead. A 15-point halftime deficit is surmountable for most teams, but the Longhorns have a difficult time making sustained runs when they can't dump the ball inside.

“We didn’t compete as hard as we should have in the first half, “sophomore guard Demarcus Holland said. “We tried to make a run and it was too late.”

Normally, Texas can endure poor performances from the field with a concerted effort to reach the free throw line and effort on the offensive boards. Friday night, the Longhorns found little relief in either. Texas nabbed 23 offensive boards, but Baylor only lost the category by five. And free throws were a nearly nonexistent premise for Texas. The Longhorns converted only two attempts from the line in a game where Baylor drained 12 threes. Actually, Baylor’s 50 percent shooting from behind the arc is twice as good as Texas’ 25 percent effort from the line.

“The best thing to do [against their zone] is to try and get fouls, and that’s the big thing I regret not doing,” Yancy said. “We’ve got to try and get in the middle and make a play. You’ve got to get to the free throw line.”