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No. 2 Baylor 83, No. 6 Texas 69: Greg Brown’s highlight impressed, but so did Bears’ defense

Longhorns still tied for second place in Big 12 standings but need to fix ‘sloppy’ defense, awful free throw shooting

Texas guard Andrew Jones looks to pass the ball while being defended by Baylor guards MaCio Teague and Mark Vital during the second half of the Bears' win on Tuesday.

First, let’s address The Dunk. 

It was incredible, no question. It was spectacular. The way Texas’ Greg Brown started from the sideline in the second half Tuesday night, caught a pass and went soaring through the Erwin Center to posterize that poor Baylor defender looked borderline criminal. It was so ferocious, it knocked all the vowels out of Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua’s name.

But instead of this monster memorable moment, it’ll be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Texas' star freshman got whistled for a technical foul after mean-mugging the poor guy on his duff. The Bears got two free throws and even scored on their ensuing free possession.

“Definitely, that was a momentum swing,” Baylor’s Davion Mitchell said. “We responded great.”

Texas basketball:Bohls: Baylor reveals disparity between it and Texas ... and everyone

The Dunk is what Texas fans will remember, but second-ranked Baylor will remember how it stood tall in the moment and made a series of winning plays afterward to capture an 83-69 victory to remain undefeated at 17-0.

“Sometimes highlight plays like those, there’s a lot of adrenaline. And it’s not high school anymore,” said Texas’ Andrew Jones, now in his fifth year at UT. “Plays like those can really cost you, like it did us.”

Texas forward Greg Brown scores on a dunk over Baylor's Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua during the second half of Tuesday night's game. Brown was called for a technical foul on the play, for taunting.

Brown’s technical didn’t single-handedly cause sixth-ranked Texas (11-4, 5-3 Big 12) to lose. Not even close. It was “sloppy” defense, Jones said. It was sloppy ball-handling, too, as the Horns had 17 turnovers. The Bears turned those mistakes into 20 points.

Jones scored a career-high 25 points, but those were offset by Mitchell’s 27. Both teams shot around 60% in the first matchup of top-six teams in Austin since 2003. But it was clear to the naked eye that Baylor (17-0, 9-0) is simply a cut above and worthy of all the national praise being directed toward Waco.

“Baylor's ahead of us right now. That's a fact,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. He’s now 2-10 against Baylor’s Scott Drew. 

“Now, they’re ahead of a lot of people,” Smart added. “But that gives us one option, if we want to be able to beat teams like that later in the year, and that is get better.”

Brown’s dunk and Baylor’s four-point swing wound up giving the Bears an eight-point lead with 13:19 remaining. And there were so many other plays in the second half that were equally important and impressive.

Baylor guard Matthew Mayer shoots over Texas' Kai Jones and Royce Hamm Jr. The second-ranked Bears won 83-69 to remain undefeated this season.

Like when Mitchell knocked the ball out of Kai Jones’ hands under the basket as the 6-foot-11 sophomore was going up for a dunk. Or when Baylor’s Adam Flagler buried a 3-pointer over Brown. 

How about when MaCio Teague and Mitchell both went diving out of bounds for a loose ball and landed on the tarp covering up courtside seats? They saved the ball and Baylor kept possession. Jared Butler thanked them both by hitting a long jumper that gave the visitors a 77-64 lead.

In a fitting exclamation point, UT’s Courtney Ramey scored on a fast-break layup late, but Baylor responded by getting the ball out quick. Mark Vital, the graybeard senior, ran the floor and threw down a vicious alley-oop slam every bit as thunderous as Brown’s. It probably didn’t make “SportsCenter,” but sure sealed the deal.

Smart actually thought Jericho Sims played some solid on-ball defense, but he had savage critiques for others.

“Matt Coleman, not good enough,” Smart said. “Andrew Jones needs to be better on defense. Greg needs to be better. We need to guard the ball better.”

Smart made only one passing reference to UT’s horrendous free throw performance. The Horns were 3-for-14 at the stripe, a massive deficiency on a night when there was little margin for error. Sims went 2-for-8 and was getting heckled by Baylor fans from the upper deck. Brown missed three straight after getting fouled on a 3-point shot attempt with 4:43 remaining.

The fact that there were any fans allowed inside at all was something of a pandemic miracle. Texas officials kept the Erwin Center closed to the public throughout January because of COVID-19 restrictions. Limited fan attendance was allowed again Tuesday, as the announced crowd was 2,532.

What’s crazy is that the statistics indicate Texas played well enough to win most games. 

The Horns had four players finish in double figures, shot well from 3-point range (45.5%), won the rebounding battle 27-26 and forced 12 turnovers. 

But the Bears shot 52.4% from downtown (11-for-21), drove to the hoop with relative ease and always seemed one step ahead. There’s a reason why they lead the nation in scoring margin. Any hesitation whatsoever, and you’re down 10 lickety-split.

The Horns weren’t going to blame COVID-19, either. They went 19 days in January without having a full team capable of practicing. Sunday was Smart’s first day back in Cooley Pavilion after testing positive himself. 

“I don’t want to give any excuse on the way we played tonight,” Jones said. “Regardless if it was 19 days or if we’ve been together 50 days, Coach has tried to establish a culture that can travel regardless of how long we’ve been away.”

Was this one loss some kind of dream-crusher? Of course not. Texas is still tied for second place in the league standings with West Virginia with more than half the Big 12 season still ahead. 

But was this a teachable moment?

“I knew, even if we had found a way to win this game tonight, we’ve got to get way better on defense,” Smart said. “And it starts with flying around and helping each other.”

Jones agrees. Saturday’s trip to Oklahoma State is the next chance to see what Texas learned from all this.

“We’re not far off. It’s just Baylor's a really good team,” Jones said. “They executed well down the stretch. They took care of the ball, and our defense just wasn't at its level today as it's supposed to be.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.