Taylor’s 35 not enough as Longhorns fall to Texas Tech

Akshay Mirchandani

With 4:14 left in the first half, Isaiah Taylor drove to the rim, scored and was fouled. The and-1 gave the junior guard five points for the game but served as the spring-board to a career day.

Those three points were the first of 16 consecutive points for Taylor to keep Texas competitive in its Big 12 opener against Texas Tech, where it struggled for much of the first half.

But, despite a career-high 35 points, Taylor couldn’t lift the Longhorns to a win over the Red Raiders as Texas fell 82-74 in Lubbock.

The Longhorns (8-5, 0-1 Big 12) suffered a nightmarish start in the first half, picking up four fouls less than three minutes into the game. The Red Raiders (11-1, 1-0) were in the bonus with 14:15 left to play and took advantage, going 12-of-13 from the free-throw line in the first half.

The Longhorns, meanwhile, went into halftime down 35-24 and shot 29.6 percent from the field in the first half compared to Texas Tech’s 44 percent.  

Then, Taylor took over.

The Red Raiders went up by 15 early in the second half, but Taylor scored 28 of his 35 points in the second half to keep Texas within striking distance. The Red Raiders had no answer for Taylor, as the junior guard drove to the rim and got to the free-throw line over and over while mixing in a few long jumpers. Taylor finished the game shooting 11-of-22 from the field and 13-of-14 from the free-throw line.

Head coach Shaka Smart said he told the team to “turn the tables” on Texas Tech.

“I guess they took that to heart,” Smart said. “Once [Taylor] kind of got going by driving the ball and getting in the lane, it wouldn't have made much sense to go away from that.”

Texas had Texas Tech’s lead down to 67-61, but a deep three from Red Raider senior guard Toddrick Gotcher put the Longhorns in a 70-61 hole with 2:18 left. The Longhorns made a basket with under a minute to play, but couldn’t make up enough ground.

Despite Taylor’s career night, Texas struggled on the defensive end. The Red Raiders shot 50 percent from the field and knocked down 27-of-30 from the free-throw line thanks to 25 Texas fouls.

“We just didn't play good enough defense,” Smart said. “That's the biggest reason that we lost.”

The Longhorns also felt the absence of senior center Cameron Ridley in his second game out because of a fractured left foot. Senior center Prince Ibeh had 10 rebounds but was scoreless, while senior forward Connor Lammert had five points and six rebounds and was limited because of his four fouls. Junior forward Shaquille Cleare had just three points and three rebounds.

Smart said they have to find a way to be effective without Ridley.

“We're just not as good as we need to be right now on the offensive end,” Smart said. “Certainly, we're different. We can't throw it in as much inside as we were. But, that's no excuse. We've got to find other ways to score.”

Texas returns home to play Kansas State on Tuesday at the Frank Erwin Center at 7 p.m.