WACO, Texas (AP) - Connor Lammert and the Texas Longhorns aren’t backing down in the Big 12.
Not against No. 15 Baylor or Rico Gathers, the Bears’ big man who was being watched by a scout from the NFL’s Buffalo Bills on Monday night.
Texas got its sixth win in seven games, never giving up the lead in a physical and sometimes chippy second half on way to a 67-58 victory.
“There were some things that went our way tonight that easily could have gone the other way. But I think our guys had a lot to do with that,” first-year Longhorns coach Shaka Smart said. “There was a little dust-up, you got two teams that really want to win and they’re competitive. Ricardo Gathers is as tough and as mean as they come. I thought our guys did a good job with their response.”
Lammert had 15 points, including a clutch 3-pointer in the final minute, as the Longhorns (15-7, 6-3) moved within a half-game of No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 14 West Virginia for the conference lead. It was the 6-foot-10 forward’s third 3 in the game.
Baylor (17-5, 6-3) had been part of a three-way tie, matching the latest ever in a season to be first in the Big 12.
“You try to stay level headed and continue to try to lead. … We could have done some better things defensively as far as being in the right spots and taking away Lammert’s 3s,” Baylor forward Taurean Prince said. “If we take away a couple of those we’re in the game.”
Prince had 18 points for the Bears, while Lester Medford added 10.
Gathers, who had 20 points and eight rebounds, fouled out with 1:27 left, and Kerwin Roach hit the second of two free throws. After Prince had a turnover, Lammert’s 3 from the right wing with 44 seconds left put the Longhorns up 62-56.
Baylor tied the game three times in the second half but could never get the lead again. The Bears led for less than 2 minutes, all in the game’s opening stretch.
Isaiah Taylor had 12 points and nine assists for the Longhorns, who finished with assists on all 21 of their field goals.
Taylor exchanged words with Gathers after a whistle on a play just over 3 1/2 minutes into the second half when Gathers also picked up a personal foul.
“Just two aggressive teams coming to compete,” Taylor explained. “Sometimes emotions flare. … Both teams stayed poised.”
But Texas got no points out that, and Baylor tied the game at 37-all on a step-back 3-pointer by Prince with 15 minutes left.
After a three-point play by Lammert, in a stretch when that was the only make in seven field goal attempts by Texas, the Bears tied the game twice more with acrobatic baskets that became three-point plays.
Medford was falling back when he put up a high arcing shot off the glass with his right hand while being fouled, and made the free throw. Gathers was leaning forward, and almost parallel to the ground, when he flipped up a shot with his right hand off the glass. He was fouled, and made the free throw that tied the game at 43-all with 11:45 left.
The Longhorns went ahead to stay on Taylor’s tiebreaking baseline layup with 11:18 left.
“We are playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Lammert said. “Earlier in the season we were not winning and we tried to figure out what was the problem. We came together as a team.”
It was the 246th game in what is the longest men’s basketball series for both teams. Texas has a 162-84 advantage, though Baylor has won nine of the last 15 since the Longhorns had won 24 in a row. The series dates to the 1905-06 season, and the teams have been in the same conference since 1915 - from the Southwest Conference to the 20 seasons in the Big 12.
BACK AND FORTH
There were five ties and six lead changes in the first 8 minutes. Texas never trailed after Roach’s second 3-pointer in a minute that made it 19-16 with 12:06 left.
Texas: The Longhorns are 4-2 against Top 25 teams this season. … After consecutive double-doubles, Prince Ibeh was held to nine points and six rebounds.
Baylor: Prince had an impressive block when he got back to swat away a dunk attempt by Demarcus Holland, who had a steal and an apparent breakaway with about 5 minutes left in the first half.
Texas hosts Texas Tech on Saturday.
Baylor is at No. 14 West Virginia on Saturday.
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