Baylor was the team that desperately needed a win. Texas, with no hope of earning a NCAA Tournament at-large bid, was the team with nothing to lose.
But on Senior Night, it was the Longhorns who came out on top. For the first time this year, they had three players score more than 15 points in a game, as beating Baylor, 79-70, at the Frank Erwin Center on Monday night.
Was it the Longhorns’ best performance this year?
“From a team standpoint, mentally and physically, no doubt,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “They never flinched. That’s the way we want to play.”
The Longhorns are now 4-3 since Myck Kabongo’s return. He scored 19 points and had eight assists, while committing just one turnover.
Sheldon McClellan played just seven minutes and was held scoreless in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State, marking the third time McClellan played fewer than 10 minutes this year and didn’t score.
McClellan scored at least 15 points in each of the last two games following contests where we was held scoreless. On Monday he scored 23 points on 9-for-14 shooting, including a 3-for-6 mark from beyond the arc.
“I don’t really think about it,” McClellan said of being benched. “I just move on to the next game and help my team get a win.”
Ioannis Papapetrou scored a career-high 18 points Monday, shooting 7-for-13 from the floor and knocking down a pair of three-pointers, none bigger than the one he drilled with 4:13 to play in the second half.
With Texas holding a one-point lead, Papapetrou missed a layup, but Cameron Ridley tipped out the rebound to Papapetrou, who calmly knocked down a three-pointer from the corner to give the Longhorns a 61-57 lead. Texas never trailed again.
“We knew we had a mismatch with me playing forward and a bigger guy guarding me, so I was trying to drive and get a layup,” Papapetrou said. “When Cam was getting the rebound, I was going out. When he passed me the ball, I was open. I didn’t hesitate.”
The Longhorns still need to win the Big 12 tournament to reach their 15th straight NCAA Tournament.
But for now, they can celebrate what may have been the decisive blow to Baylor’s chances of playing in the Big Dance.
“There will probably be two or three teams that you haven’t talked about that are going to do something that’s not expected,” Barnes said. “It happens every year. Are we capable of doing that? No question.”