By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
LUBBOCK, Texas - After losing back-to-back one-point games on free throws in the last three seconds, Texas Tech had to hope that Monday's game against fourth-ranked Baylor didn't come down to the foul line again.
It did, but in a different way.
The Red Raiders (17-9, 5-8) went on an 11-0 run after Baylor point guard Manu Lecomte fouled out on an illegal pick and technical with 8 ½ minutes to play and hit 24-of-35 second-half free throws to upset the Bears, 84-78, as the students stormed the floor at United Supermarkets Arena.
"This is a good learning experience for us," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team fell to 22-4 overall and 9-4 in the Big 12 with its third loss in the last five games, "because if we're in the NCAA Tournament and things are being called this way, then we have to adjust. If you don't, you have three guys foul out and you lose the game."
In a 70-52 win over TCU two days earlier, the two teams shot just 15 free throws between them and were whistled for a combined 26 fouls. This time, there were 53 fouls called and 58 free throws in the 40-minute game.
"With so many free throw attempts, I don't think anybody really got in a flow," Drew said. "We've been a deep team, and I think we've worn people down. Second half, with (53) free throw attempts, that's a lot of stoppage in play. Obviously, both teams were fouling. I'm not criticizing the officials. Both teams got tired, and we did more fouling than they did. We have to do a better job, because obviously officials call it how they see it."
None hurt worse than the illegal pick called on Lecomte with 8:28 left in the game and the Bears clinging to a three-point lead, 59-56. With the junior point guard then hit with a technical, his fifth foul, he went to the bench for good with 16 points and just one assist in 27 minutes.
"Manu's our floor general, our (point guard)," said senior guard Ishmail Wainright. "But, we also have to step it up even more. That's one man down, so you just have to step it up."
Terry Maston did, scoring a career-high 22 points off the bench. His short baseline jumper pushed the lead back to three, but a three-point play by guard Devon Thomas tied the game and kicked off the 11-0 run that gave Tech the lead for good.
Thomas was initially whistled for a charge, but one of the officials reversed the call and charged Jake Lindsey for a blocking foul that led to the three-point play.
"I think it was maybe just a lack of focus," said Maston, who was 7-of-11 from the floor and a perfect 8-for-8 from the line. "It pretty much starts with our defense. . . . That just wasn't an effort that we could win with."
Tech guards Keenan Evans and Niem Stevenson scored 23 and 21 points, respectively, and combined to hit 18-of-25 free throws. By comparison, Baylor was 17-of-25 as a team.
"We've known the whole time that we can beat these teams," said Evans, who was 2-for-3 from 3-point range and 11-of-14 from the line. "Especially Kansas (Saturday's 80-79 loss), we let that one slip away. We knew coming in it was going to be a battle, but we knew we could come out with a win."
With the Bears going nearly four minutes without scoring, Tech took the lead, 62-61, on an Evans free throw with 6:34 left. That was the Red Raiders' first lead since late in the first half.
Aaron Ross hit a 3-pointer and layup, sandwiched around an Evans driving layup, that put Tech on top, 69-61, with five minutes to play.
"We made some mental mistakes that we can't make - the technical, free throw lane violation, a couple other things in there," Drew said. "That's tough on everybody when you play Saturday-Monday, because you're a little on edge, a little tired."
Baylor hurt its own cause by missing three free throws in the last three minutes, including the front end of a one-and-one by Wainright. But, the Red Raiders iced it with eight free throws in the last 56 seconds.
The Bears did make things interesting down the stretch, getting 3-pointers by King McClure and Jake Lindsey and a dunk by Jo Lual-Acuil. They had a chance to make it a one-possession game with about eight seconds left, but freshman guard Chuck Mitchell missed a 3-pointer from the corner.
"It's tough, because people look at a number and see 4 (Baylor's ranking in the polls) and they see `non-ranked,''' Drew said. "And they think there's a big difference. Coaches know there's not a big difference. These are one-possession games, this is a one-possession league. And sometimes, it comes down to who's making free throws and who's not."
No one would have guessed this one might be that kind of game when Tech hit six of its first shots and took a 14-2 lead on an Evans 3-pointer just over four minutes into the game.
"Tech got off to a great start, jumped on us," Drew said. "I've got to credit them for that. And then, (I'm) anxious to go back and see film and see what happened, because obviously we were fouling a lot. We've got to see why, so we can correct that, but I really thought that changed the momentum of the game."
After trailing by double digits, the Bears pulled even, 26-26, on a pull-up jumper by Lecomte at the 5:34 mark as the Red Raiders cooled off. Tech missed 14 of its last 19 shots in the first half and went into the break down four, 36-32.
With All-American candidate Johnathan Motley scoring zero first-half points, Maston took up the slack, scoring 12 of his 22 points in the first 20 minutes.
"They doubled (Motley) pretty hard, so it opened up lanes for me and the spacing was pretty good," Maston said. "He delivered some good passes to me, as well as my point guards and the shooting guards."
Motley, who was 15-of-16 from the line and scored 25 points in last month's 65-61 win over Tech in Waco, finished Monday's game with just 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and four turnovers.
"I think Mot was off," Drew said. "He's been so consistent this year, and he wasn't himself today. Let's credit Texas Tech for causing that."
Lual-Acuil added 11 points, four rebounds and two blocks for the Bears, who will host No. 3 Kansas (23-3, 11-2) at noon Saturday in a game that will be televised by CBS. The Jayhawks overcame a 14-point second-half deficit to beat No. 9 West Virginia, 84-80, in overtime Monday night in Lawrence, avoiding its second straight home-court loss.