On Feb. 27, 2019, the Longhorns traveled up Interstate 35 to Waco for a road matchup that defined the 2018–2019 season: good, but not consistently good enough. The team lost by one in an overtime heartbreaker.
With conference play beginning Saturday, Texas had the chance to prove it could compete with the best teams in the country this season in another road date with the No. 6 Baylor Bears, a matchup eerily reminiscent of last year’s 84-83 loss.
The Bears made it clear that they would once again defend home court, and Texas was sent home with a 59-44 loss.
With a chance to win their Big 12 opener and earn their 1,800th victory in program history, the Longhorns came out fighting. Scrappy play — including a sequence with vicious blocks by both the Bears and Longhorns — dominated the first five minutes of play.
However, things unraveled quickly for Texas after the five-minute mark. Two consecutive three-point plays for the Bears followed by several offensive rebounds brought their lead to 10. Rebounding became an issue for Texas early on, as the Longhorns were outrebounded 48-35. Nineteen of Baylor’s boards came on the offensive glass.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a team that we’ve done more rebounding drills with,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “Maybe the whole practice should be rebounding. They have a really good offensive team, but when you make a good offensive team miss on their first shot, you can’t let them get it back 19 times.”
Toward the end of the half, the Longhorns were able to cobble together a couple stops along with a few buckets to shrink the lead to four points. But several careless possessions along with fouls against Texas allowed the Bears to extend their lead to 13 with a 9-0 run heading into halftime.
An 11-4 run to open the first half helped Texas fight its way back into the game, trailing by only six points with about 11 minutes to go in the game. However, missed opportunities and inopportune fouls curtailed the Longhorns’ attempt to get back into the game. A crucial foul by junior guard Jase Febres on a three-point attempt by Baylor redshirt junior guard MaCio Teague swung the momentum back to Baylor.
“Even though we played so bad, we still had chances to win,” junior guard Matt Coleman said. “At one point we were down six and still had a chance to compete, but they kept it rolling. They hit some shots and got it going.”
Junior forward Jericho Sims’ play was once again a highlight in a game devoid of many. Collecting his second consecutive double-double and his third of the season, Sims tallied 15 rebounds in the game, nearly half of the team’s total. He also chipped in 13 points.
“He’s the one guy tonight that really grabbed the ball,” Smart said. “You know he fought. This was one of his better games. There’s always more he can do and that’s the exciting thing about him, but he definitely played the best of anyone on our team.”
While the physical and gutsy performance gives the team a lot to be proud of moving forward against the gauntlet that is the Big 12 Conference, the team will have to recover quickly before a home game against Oklahoma on Jan. 8.