Baylor defense stymies Longhorns in 76-61 defeat

Jacob Martella

The first three possessions said it all.

The 24th-ranked Longhorns opened Saturday’s game against No. 25 Baylor with three-straight turnovers. The Bears pounced immediately, turning the extra possessions into a 6-0 lead that it wouldn’t relinquish in a 78-64 loss before a sellout crowd of 16,540 at the Erwin Center — the worst loss of the Shaka Smart era.

“We didn’t respond well at all,” junior guard Isaiah Taylor said. “Today we weren’t able to respond.”

The Longhorns had no answer for the 1-3-1 zone puzzle Baylor gave them.

Texas spent most of its offensive possessions chucking the ball around the 3-point line. And when it did finally put up shots, nothing fell.

The Longhorns shot 38.1 percent in the first half while putting up a season-low 22 points.

“I thought our response was low level today  — disappointed,” head coach Shaka Smart said.

Texas finally got on the board over three minutes into the game, but the buckets didn’t come often enough. The Longhorns struggled to find anything inside, scoring just eight points in the paint in the first half because of the Bears’ length.

Instead, most of Texas’ possessions consisted of passes along the perimeter before either a missed shot or a turnover. The Longhorns finished the first half with the same number of turnovers — eight — as made shots.

Senior forward Connor Lammert said their hesitation to take shots and make plays played right into Baylor’s hand.

“That’s what they want you to do,” Lammert said. “They don’t want you to get down below their wings and we didn’t do a good job of doing that.”

The offensive struggles came in stark contrast to the first meeting between the two teams on Feb. 1 in Waco. That night, it was the Bears who couldn’t figure out the Longhorns offense. Texas shot 47.7 percent from the field, made eight 3-pointers and tallied an assist on all 21 made baskets.

Baylor, however, had no such issues carving up the Longhorn defense on Saturday. The Bears’ big men found plenty of space down low, scoring 50 points in the paint.

Junior forward Shaquille Cleare said Baylor’s ability to break the press, along with bad defense from himself, contributed to the Bears’ high-scoring night.

“They were able to get in the lane, and we made some bad plays defensively,” said Cleare, who led Texas with a career-high 14 points.

The Bears ability to score inside led them to a 62.7 shooting percentage, their second-highest in Big 12 play this season. Sophomore forward Johnathan Motley led the Bears’ barrage with 24 points on 12-of-13 shooting.

The loss is the Longhorns’ first home defeat in Big 12 play.

Taylor said Texas needs to respond better when it travels to play Kansas State on Monday — a place where it’s won just once in the last seven years.

“We can’t dwell on this,” Taylor said. “We know that we have a game coming up in about 48 hours.”