Texas unravels late for first road loss of season

Dalton Phillips

Freshman Mo Bamba hoisted a three with five minutes left in Waco. Down by as much as nine in the second half to Baylor, the Longhorn forward buried the triple, silencing the crowd and cutting the lead to a single possession.

But Texas would come up empty on its next five trips down the floor. The shorthanded Longhorns went scoreless down the stretch, shooting 26 percent in the second half as Baylor held on to earn its first Big 12 win of the season, 69-60.  

The matchup featured arguably the conference’s top two big men in the 6-foot-11 Bamba and Baylor 7-footer Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. Bamba, the nation’s second-leading shot blocker, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half to go along with nine rebounds and five blocks. But Texas’ strong defensive effort couldn’t overcome cold shooting as the team suffered its first true road loss of the season.

Texas started the game strong, propelled by the first-career start of freshman guard Jase Febres. The Longhorns connected on seven of their first 15 attempts from the floor and took an early five-point lead, boosted by eight points from Febres.

But a hot start quickly turned cold as Texas connected on only two of its next 10 shots. The Bears scored seven unanswered, including two uncontested looks in transition, to go up 27-25 with six minutes left before the break.

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski responded with a triple, and Febres buried two more shots from behind the arc shortly after to reclaim the lead for Texas. Febres finished the game with a career-high 18 points, which all came in the opening 20 minutes for the freshman.

The Bears quickly closed out the half with a 5-0 run of their own and only trailed 40-38.

Texas has struggled all season to build on leads after halftime, and Saturday was no exception.

Baylor returned from the break with new intensity. The Bears pounded three buckets in the lane to go up by four, swapping to a man-to-man defense after a first half of zone pressure.

Bamba answered the run for Texas with a huge flush on the other end to keep it a one-possession game, then converted on a layup moments later to tie the contest. But Baylor again came away with seven unanswered points, and Texas began struggling to find its rhythm.

Baylor maintained separation for most of the second half. The Longhorns came up empty on four straight possessions as the offense stagnated in the face of the man defense. With under eight minutes left in the game, the Bears opened up a nine-point advantage — the largest lead for either team.

Texas responded with a final furious rally. Osetkowski hit a three to close the gap to four and Bamba connected on a late shot from deep, but that was as close as Texas got. The Longhorns missed their next eight attempts from the floor, and Baylor avoided its first 0-3 conference start in nearly 12 seasons.

Texas (10-5, 1-2) looks to rebound when it hosts No. 16 TCU on Wednesday at 8 p.m.