Taylor, Felix work together to lift Longhorns over Texas Tech

Akshay Mirchandani

Isaiah Taylor was met by two Texas Tech defenders as he brought the ball down the court late Saturday afternoon. But help was only a few feet away from the junior guard, immediately dishing the ball to senior guard Javan Felix.

Felix crossed halfcourt and handed it back to Taylor, reminiscent of how the veteran guard duo who combined for 33 points played off each other all afternoon, leading to a 69-59 victory over the Red Raiders at the Frank Erwin Center.

“It’s a feel for the game,” Felix said. “Isaiah got in foul trouble early, so I went to the one, and when he came back in he played the one for most of the rest of the game. Sometimes, even when he’s in the game, I’ll get the ball out in transition.”

Felix and Taylor have helped the Longhorns win plenty of games — they are Texas’ two leading scorers and have hit game-winners on separate occasions this season.

But it was how Felix and Taylor played together while taking turns running the show that helped Texas win its fourth straight game.  

“Felix and Isaiah, they really stepped up and made shots when they had to,” Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith said.

During the first minutes of the first half, the question was whether someone other than Felix would score. Felix scored Texas’ first basket of the game, something which Felix and head coach Shaka Smart said was by design. But he didn’t stop there, scoring first eight points of the game.

Taylor was relegated to the bench for most of the first half because of two quick fouls, but it was his turn late in the period.

Smart turned to Taylor to help spark a stagnant Texas offense and he delivered, dropping two assists to freshman guard/forward Tevin Mack that led to open threes. The two plays helped Texas go into halftime up 36-30.

“It’s really good to have two guys in the backcourt that can be aggressive and make plays,” Smart said. “Isaiah is a dynamic driver and passer, and Javan is a terrific shooter but he also can put it down and make some good plays.”

Taylor’s run continued in the second half, scoring Texas’ first seven points of the period. But once Texas Tech cut Texas’ lead to 43-41 with 12:03 left, Felix took the reins again. Seven of Felix’s 20 points came in the seven ensuing minutes to push Texas’ lead to 58-49.

The Red Raiders answered with two quick free throws to cut that lead to seven, but, sure enough, Taylor made his presence felt again with a jumper to help put away the game. He also ended Saturday with eight assists, two of which were to Felix.

“Just to have my shooters ready, I think that helps it a lot and they’re ready to lock and load,” Taylor said. “Tevin, Javan, Eric Davis, Connor [Lammert], they’re not going to hesitate.”

Felix and Taylor will have their hands full when they next take the floor — the Longhorns play No. 1 Oklahoma in Norman on Monday. Smart praised the Sooners’ guard rotation, but said Texas is lucky to have two reliable ones of its own.

“If you look around the country at most of the really, really good teams, they have multiple guards that can make plays,” Smart said. “We’re fortunate to have those two guys.”