WACO, Texas (AP)—Kenny Taylor understood the boos. He also had the best response in the place he used to call home.
Taylor, the first Baylor transfer to return to Waco, scored 18 points on six 3-pointers and No. 11 Texas beat the Bears 84-58 Tuesday night.
“I heard the boos,” Taylor said, “But that just made me stay focused and made me concentrate on my follow-through and things like that.”
With Baylor students holding signs calling him a traitor and booing each time he touched the ball, Taylor made four 3-pointers in the first half. His first put the Longhorns (17-3, 8-1 Big 12) in the lead to stay.
Taylor was the Bears’ third-leading scorer last season but, like leading scorers Lawrence Roberts (Mississippi State) and John Lucas (Oklahoma State), he left after Baylor’s turbulent offseason when the NCAA relaxed transfer rules.
The departures of the current juniors came after the shooting death of Patrick Dennehy, for which former player Carlton Dotson faces trial, and a coaching change after serious NCAA violations were revealed.
“I had to make a decision, the way to go as far as my education and career goals,” Taylor said. “I don’t regret the decision I made.”
Lucas comes back Feb. 28 with No. 10 Oklahoma State. The Bears don’t play No. 6 Mississippi State.
Coach Scott Drew had a request for Baylor fans: don’t boo Lucas, who has been a catalyst for the Cowboys.
After Matt Sayman missed a tying 3-pointer for the Bears (7-15, 2-7) with about 4 minutes left in the first half, Taylor hit three 3-pointers in a half-ending 15-1 run that gave the Longhorns a 36-19 lead.
“I wasn’t surprised at all that Kenny stepped up to the challenge of the boos,” Sayman said. “It was typical Kenny. He’s a great competitor. If you challenge him like that, he’ll come through.”
Before the game, Taylor reassured coach Rick Barnes that he was prepared to handle the situation.
“I can only tell you Kenny has wonderful, wonderful feelings and memories of this place,” Barnes said. “He loved it.”
Texas has won all 13 games against Baylor in Barnes’ six seasons. The previous 12 had been by an average of 15.6 points.
Kenton Paulino added 15 points with four 3-pointers for Texas and P.J. Tucker had 10 points and eight rebounds. The Longhorns, who have won five straight games and 12 of 13, shot 51 percent (31-of-61).
When Taylor made his first 3-pointer from the right wing with 10:42 left in the first half, it gave Texas a 10-8 lead and started an 8-0 run. The cheers of the Longhorns fans drowned out the boos.
“If anything, he was more focused that he was coming back to where he played two years,” Paulino said. “I just think he wanted to be focused and have no distractions.”
Taylor made his first appearance 6 minutes into the game, and even though his entry wasn’t announced, the fans noticed and started booing. He missed his first shot.
“I expected the worse,” he said. “I knew they wouldn’t cheer for me too much because I’m on the opposite team. … It wasn’t too strange. I tried not to make things bigger than they are.”
Harvey Thomas led Baylor with 20 points, while Terrance Thomas had 14 points and 13 rebounds. The Bears shot just 29 percent (18-of-62) in their worst home loss this season.
The 19 first-half points were the lowest total by a Texas opponent this season. Oklahoma scored just 20 points before halftime—and only 17 after that—in a 66-37 loss to the Longhorns on Sunday.
Baylor scored four quick points when Sayman made a basket and Terrance Thomas made two free throws after a technical foul to get within 41-23, but that was the last time the Bears’ deficit was less than 20. Paulino hit two 3-pointers and Texas scored eight straight points.