The game happened nearly a month ago. And for Texas, an 81-56 loss to Baylor still is difficult to truly explain.
The sixth-ranked Longhorns and No. 3 Bears face off again Monday night at the Erwin Center. Both teams are among the best in the nation and should be expected to go deep into the NCAA playoffs, which start next month. That’s what made a 25-point loss to the Bears in Waco so difficult to break down.
For UT senior guard Brooke McCarty, the stinging defeat was because she and her teammates didn’t follow the game plan.
“It was ourselves that got us beat,” McCarty said Sunday, hours after her Longhorns returned to Austin after a 77-62 victory at Oklahoma State.
McCarty said the Longhorns deserved every bit of ire that Karen Aston threw their way after losing in Waco. The Bears had led by as many as 32 points before UT narrowed the final deficit to 25.
Aston saw what happened a bit differently, although the results were basically the same as all the other games against the Bears. UT has won only once in the last 17 contests against Baylor. Aston is 1-12 against a team she once helped coach.
“We were not very competitive at all,” Aston said. “We have to amp up our competitive juices. It can’t get more simple than that.”
Here’s how it simply breaks down.
Baylor sports a formidable frontcourt and relies on 6-7 Kalani Brown, 6-4 Lauren Cox and 6-2 DeKeiya Cohen to intimidate and overwhelm the opposition. And if teams concentrate too much on the posts, then the Baylor guards take over the show.
The Bears rebound better than any other team in the country. And Brown averages 20.3 points per game; Cox scores nearly 15. Guard Kristy Wallace is averaging 12.5 points per game.
Cox and Brown each scored 17 points the last time Baylor faced Texas. Wallace gutted the Longhorns for 27. The Bears defense was so stout that UT’s backcourt of McCarty and Ariel Atkins converted only eight of their combined 30 shots.
In Baylor’s last contest, an 88-51 home victory over Kansas, Brown and Cox both found themselves in early foul trouble. The Jayhawks trimmed a 13-point Baylor advantage to six. Then Bears coach Kim Mulkey went to a smaller lineup, relying on Wallace with Brown and Cox on the bench. Wallace scored 26 points.
“Use every adjective you can imagine,” Mulkey said of Wallace. “Senior, competitor, tough, just an inspiring kid to watch play basketball.”
Baylor has won 22 games in a row. The Bears’ lone loss of the season was on the road against UCLA on Nov. 18, when Mulkey was back in Waco helping her daughter deal with the loss of her unborn baby.
Since losing to the Bears, Texas righted itself, winning seven straight games.
“I’m pleased with the way we’ve played,” Aston said. “I’m pleased that we chose to not let one loss turn into two or three.”
The crowd at the Erwin Center is supposed to be the second biggest of the season, only after the 11,877 who showed up to watch a 75-71 loss to top-ranked Connecticut. More than 6,000 tickets have been sold for the Baylor game and that total doesn’t include students.
The last time the Longhorns beat Baylor in Austin was in 2010. But UT will be focused most on correcting what happened last month in Waco.
“You sure don’t have to mention it,” McCarty said of the January defeat. “It’s all fresh on our minds.”