By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
On a night when fifth-ranked Baylor had season lows for field goals made (17) and shooting percentage (35.4), the Bears made up for it with dead-eye shooting from the foul line.
Johnathan Motley was particularly lethal, knocking down 15-of-16 of his free throw attempts and finishing with a game-high 25 points and nine rebounds to help Baylor escape with a 65-61 victory over Texas Tech Wednesday night before a Ferrell Center crowd of 7,059.
"That's about all we could make," Baylor coach Scott Drew said of the Bears hitting 92.9 percent from the line (26-of-28). "Really didn't shot it well at all, turned it over too much, but we defended, we rebounded and we made free throws."
Keenan Evans hit a pair of free throws to make it a two-point game, 63-61, with 38.4 seconds left. And when Manu Lecomte missed a short jumper and Motley couldn't hit the follow from underneath the basket, Tech (14-6, 3-5) got one last shot at it.
As Baylor's defense sprinted back, Evans tried to knock down a game-winner from NBA range, but Ishmail Wainright came up with arguably the play of the game by stuffing the shot. That looked like the game was over, but one of the officials blew an inadvertent whistle with 0.5 seconds showing on the clock.
After reviewing the monitor and then discussing the matter, the officials called a jump ball, with the possession arrow pointing toward Baylor's end.
"Honestly, I didn't know what they were going to call," said Drew, whose team improved to 19-1 overall and tied for first with Kansas at 7-1 in league play. "I didn't know if they were going to let us shoot free throws, let them shoot free throws. And if it was an inadvertent whistle, who would get it? Us coaches know the rule book, but not rules like that, because you don't have too many inadvertent whistles at the end. We're just blessed we got the ball, so we didn't have to have a shot go up to tie or beat us."
Tech coach Chris Beard said he was confused by the officials' explanation of the inadvertent whistle, but liked going for the win at the end.
"Coming down like that, I would like to shoot the 3 and either win the game or go on the bus and go to George's and get a chicken fried steak," he said.
Al Freeman hit a pair of free throws to ice the game, and then the Red Raiders didn't get a shot off before the buzzer.
"I was real nervous," Motley said. "I was just glad it wasn't a foul. I think the ref said he heard the horn, and that's why he blew the whistle. I thought I heard something, too. I'm just glad they reviewed it, and it went our way."
Despite their shooting woes from the field, the Bears did hit some clutch shots down the stretch. Jake Lindsey buried a 3-pointer to push the lead to 56-52, then Lecomte drained another trey after missing seven of his first nine shots, putting the Bears up by five, 59-54, with a little over 2 ½ minutes left.
"It is tough, sometimes," said Lecomte, who finished with 10 points and five assists. "You've just got to stay aggressive, keep believing in your shot. I wasn't shooting well at all tonight, but my teammates and my coaches kept believing in me to take the last shot. So I just took it, and it was a good pass from Ish."
Baylor jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first four-plus minutes, getting 3-pointers from Lecomte and Al Freeman, an inside bucket from Jo Lual-Acuil and four points from Motley. The lead stretched to as many as 12 before the Red Raiders answered with a 20-7 run and took their first lead of the game, 29-28, on a pair of free throws by Aaron Ross.
The Bears took a one-point lead into the break and got eight quick points from Motley, who then fed Lual-Acuil for a slam dunk that put them up 42-37. But, Tech just wouldn't go away.
Motley hit a pair of free throws with 1:20 left that seemed to be the dagger, giving Baylor its biggest lead of the second half, 63-56. But then Ross drained a 3-pointer and Evans hit his free throws after Lindsey fouled out for a push-off on the offensive end, giving Tech one last chance.
This time, though, Baylor got it done on the defensive end.
"We just had to sprint back on defense to make sure we got a stop," Lecomte said. "And Ishmail made a great stop. He saved us tonight."
Other than the monitor review, Motley said he wasn't nervous at the end, because "we have great defensive players."
"Ish is a great defensive player, and he made a great play," he said. "So no, I wasn't nervous at all. We were just going to make them shoot over our hand and see what happens."
Baylor, riding a four-game winning streak overall and 13 in a row at home, will face Ole Miss (12-8) in the Big 12/SEC Challenge at 5 p.m. CDT Saturday in Oxford, Miss. The Rebels have lost three of their last five, falling to Texas A&M, 80-76, Wednesday night at home.