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Texas ends skid with tight win over Baylor

The SportsXchange

AUSTIN, Texas -- After dropping two games on a rough road trip to Iowa State and Kansas last week, No. 24 Texas returned home to wrestle one away from pesky Baylor.

The Longhorns saw an 18-point lead dissolve to one point, but Texas held on for a 74-69 victory over the Bears on Wednesday at the Frank Erwin Center.

With Texas clutching a 70-69 advantage in the final minute, Longhorns guard Isaiah Taylor went to the elbow, spun away from Baylor guard Kenny Chery, then hit a wide-open bank shot in the lane to boost the Longhorns' margin back to three with 47 seconds left.

Baylor would not score again, which Texas center Cameron Ridley made sure of with a vital block of a Chery jumper in the lane.

The Longhorns (21-7, 10-5 Big 12) saw their chances to win a regular-season Big 12 championship all but slip away when they were hammered by 31 points at Kansas on Saturday. The Jayhawks then clinched a share of the conference title with a win over Oklahoma on Monday.

Even so, Longhorns coach Rick Barnes liked what he saw down the stretch with Taylor's basket and Ridley's block.

"I love it," Barnes said. "I believe there are going to be times in every game where you have to have somebody that can go get one and you have to have somebody who will make a stop."

Chery finished with a game-high 27 points, but he could not bring the Bears all the way back. Ridley, who had four fouls when he made the last-minute block, said he wasn't too worried about fouling out at that point.

"The whole game he was attacking the basket," Ridley said. "I could tell, the way he was driving, he was going to shoot it. I tried not to foul him, but I wanted to block the shot."

Baylor (18-10, 6-9) had won four straight before Wednesday, but the Bears now face the possibility of having a losing record in conference. Baylor hosts Texas Tech and Iowa State before finishing the regular season on the road at Kansas State.

"These last games right here decide what's going to happen after our season," said Baylor forward Cory Jefferson, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. "We've got to go out and play more like we did in the second half than the first."

Texas guard Javan Felix hit seven of nine 3-pointers to lead the Longhorns with 21 points. Ridley finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Taylor scored 13 and handed out seven assists, serving as the Longhorns' catalyst.

"It all started with Isaiah getting his space," Barnes said. "The point guard has got to attack cracks. If he doesn't, it all gets out of seam."

After shooting 25 percent from the field in the first half, Baylor warmed up to start the second half, hitting six of its first eight shots and cut Texas' 15-point lead at the break to four when guard Brady Heslip hit a 3-pointer at the 14:24 mark.

Chery hit three treys in the first 11 minutes of the second half, and Bears forward Royce O'Neale's 3-pointer at the 8:56 mark sliced the Longhorns' lead to two.

However, Baylor failed to tie it before Texas seized momentum again.

Longhorns forward Jonathan Holmes made a dazzling, back-to-the-basket reverse layup. Then a Heslip air ball on one end, signaling the end of the Bears' hot streak, was followed by Holmes jumper on the next trip down the floor, putting Texas ahead 67-60. Holmes finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

Taylor followed with a jumper to cap an 8-1 run that proved vital to Texas' cause.

Texas threatened to bury Baylor early as Felix threw in two 3-pointers and Ridley completed a three-point play during the Longhorns' 12-1 run in the first five minutes.

Chery fought back, hitting two 3-pointers and adding a jumper during a 10-3 answer that cut Texas' lead to 15-13 with 12:52 left in the first half. But Felix stayed hot, and Taylor and Ridley pitched in to help the Longhorns establish an 18-point lead when Felix hit his fifth 3-pointer of the first half at the 2:20 mark.

Felix was 5-for-5 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes, accounting for all of his 15 points and propelling Texas. Taylor had five assists in the first half and began connecting on his preferred floater shot to score six points in the half.

"I thought they were more physical than us," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "They got 50-50 balls, we didn't. We'd been scoring in the post the last few games, and I thought their physicality really bothered us. In the second half, we answered the bell, but you have to do that for 40 minutes."

Chery scored 14 in the first half, but the rest of the Bears shot 17 percent and Texas led 32-27 at the break.

NOTES: Texas defeated Baylor 74-60 in Waco in the teams' first meeting in Big 12 play this season. It was the third game in the Longhorns' streak of four consecutive wins over ranked opponents. ... Texas G Isaiah Taylor scored his season-high 27 points in the Longhorns' first game against Baylor. He finished with 13 points and seven assists Wednesday. ... Bears F Cory Jefferson reached the 1,000-point mark for his career with a put-back in the first half. He is the 28th player to reach 1,000 points at Baylor. ... Texas coach Rick Barnes is 14-2 against Baylor in games played in Austin.

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