Austin, Texas Texas keeps winning. Is a return to No. 1 next?
Freshman Tristan Thompson had 17 points and 13 rebounds and No. 3 Texas held off a furious rally by LaceDarius Dunn and Baylor to remain undefeated in the Big 12 with a 69-60 victory Saturday.
The Longhorns have won 10 in a row. And given top-ranked Ohio State’s loss to Wisconsin and the fact that Texas handed No. 2 Kansas its only loss of the season, the Longhorns could find themselves sitting at No. 1 come Monday.
They hope not.
“We don’t want No. 1,” sophomore forward Jordan Hamilton said.
That’s understandable considering what happened last season: Texas started 17-0 and reached No. 1 for the first time in school history before a quick losing skid left them unranked in a matter of weeks.
Thompson wasn’t around then, but doesn’t want anything to bring back reminders of what happened.
“I don’t want to be No. 1,” he said. “Enjoy No. 3 and keep climbing that mountain.”
Baylor pushed Texas harder than anyone else in the Big 12 so far.
Dunn scored 22 points in the second half as the Bears cut an 18-point deficit to three in the final 2 minutes. Texas led 65-60 when Dunn’s 3-pointer rattled in and out with about 25 seconds left. Texas’ Gary Johnson made two free throws to put the game away.
Texas (22-3, 10-0) could have settled the game much earlier, but went 22 of 37 from the free throw line.
“I liked the fight,” Baylor coach Scott Drew. “You play a game like this and walk away a better team.”
Texas was in complete control after a blistering first half, then looked helpless to stop Dunn in the second as he seemed to score at will.
“He heated up for them and kept them in the game,” Thompson said.
Baylor (16-8, 6-5) has more size than Texas has seen this season with three starters at least 6-foot-10, and the Bears tried to use that bulk to match Texas’ physical style of play. The game featured several early dunks as Thompson and Baylor’s Perry Jones III, two of the top freshmen in the Big 12, were locked in a battle under the basket. Jones had 13 points and six rebounds.
Texas looked unstoppable in the first half. The Bears got in early foul trouble and the Longhorns shot 61 percent over the first 15 minutes, slicing up Baylor’s zone defense by shooting over it or driving through it with ease.
Hamilton had 12 points in the first half and his baseline dunk for a three-point play put Texas ahead 34-15. Texas led 38-22 at halftime and opened the second with Thompson’s dunk on an alley-oop pass from Dogus Balbay.
But Thompson was whistled for a technical foul for hanging on the rim. Dunn made one of two free throws to start a 7-0 Baylor run — including another dunk by Jones.
The Bears had clearly found their rhythm and cut Texas’ lead to 44-36 when Dunn hit a tough shot over Balbay and converted a three-point play.
“I think we came out with an edge,” Dunn said.
Dunn was just getting started on a dizzying run of layups and jumpers over the next 10 minutes. He scored 16 of Baylor’s 17 points during one stretch to get the Bears within 61-57 with 3:42 to play.
“He scored every kind of way,” Hamilton said. “(But) we never get rattled, even when a team is coming back.”
Texas’ biggest problem was that Baylor was willing to foul to send the Longhorns to the line. Time after time, the Longhorns missed one or both shots to give away points and keep the Baylor rally going.
It wasn’t until the Bears cut the lead to 63-60 on Jones’ three-point play that Thompson, who was 5 of 10 at that point, made two free throws. Dunn missed his chance to keep Baylor alive and Texas finished the game making four straight free throws by Johnson and Cory Joseph in the final seconds.
Thompson was 7 of 14 from the line, but grabbed several offensive rebounds late in the second half that helped Texas keep the ball when time became a critical factor.
“I thought Tristan was a monster today,” Drew said.
“Just be hungry for the ball,” Thompson said. “Every possession counts.”