By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Terry Maston has definitely saved his best for last.
But, for all the success that he's had during a memorable senior season that's included three games of 20 points or more, he was missing one thing from his resume. Consistency. Baylor's 6-foot-8 forward had not posted back-to-back double-digit games through the first 13 games in league play.
Until Saturday night.
Maston followed up his career-high 26-point outing against Texas with a game-high 24 in the Bears' 59-57 win over seventh-ranked Texas Tech before a Ferrell Center-record crowd of 10,627, hitting the go-ahead bucket with 1:26 left on a patented baby hook from the baseline.
"The thing I talked to him about yesterday was you've had big games before, but coming back and now having back-to-back games and being consistent with it, that's the next level," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team won its fifth in a row in improving to 17-10 overall and fifth in the Big 12 at 7-7. "We're running out of time, big fella, so we need that consistency. He was great tonight."
Even after Maston gave the Bears the lead back, the league-leading Red Raiders (22-5, 10-4) had four shots to tie or take the lead in the last minute and couldn't answer. In fact, they went scoreless over the last three minutes and missed their last six shots.
"We were just playing hard and hustling," said redshirt freshman forward Mark Vital, who had eight points and eight boards for the game and two huge blocks in that last minute. "We didn't want to give up that game. The game was on the line right there, we needed to play hard and get a stop."
The Bears got plenty of stops, holding Tech to 39 percent shooting overall (20-of-51) and just 3-of-14 from 3-point range. But Jake Lindsey, fighting through flu, came up with the biggest of the night when he forced a double-clutch 3-pointer by Brandone Francis that came up well short of the rim.
"That was really big," Maston said. "I was talking to him after the game, and his body was just worn down. He came in (Friday), barely walking, had his hood over his head. And then, for him to come out today and play as hard as he did, that just shows the toughness of our team. It really shows what we're made of."
Already playing a man down, with senior forward Zach Smith missing 12 games with a broken foot, Tech had to play the second half without senior point guard Keenan Evans. One of the league's leading scorers with 18.7 per game, he was just 1-of-6 in the first half and then sat out the rest of the game with a toe injury.
"Just late in the game, our offensive execution wasn't good enough," said Tech coach Chris Beard, whose team had won seven in a row. "A lot of that is Keenan not being out there, but other guys have to make that play at the end. And we have to coach better, too."
Behind Maston's 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, Baylor took control in the first half and led by as many as eight. The Bears had chances in the last minute to go up double digits, but turned it over twice, and then Justin Gray drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer that cut the lead to 35-31.
"He's a guy who looks to me like it's the end of his career and he's trying to play another day," Beard said of Maston. "I've coached guys like him, and you find another level at this point of his career, and special things happen. We have a lot of respect for him. . . . He's playing great."
Like the rest of the team, Maston struggled for most of the second half, missing his first four shots and a pair of free throws. But when the Bears needed buckets at the end, they knew where to turn.
With Tech threatening to pull away, Maston twice got Baylor back within one, the first on a jumper and then a pair of free throws. And after Francis knocked down a 3-pointer for what turned out to be the Red Raiders' final points of the night, Maston answered with a three-point play that made it a one-point game again, 57-56.
"I had a really good first half and then I got cold in the second half," he said, "but my teammates still trusted me to give me the ball. They called a couple plays for me, and I ended up executing down the stretch. I've been playing pretty good basketball lately."
On the go-ahead bucket, Maston said "it felt pretty good leaving my hand."
"I had good screens from Manu (Lecomte), and Jake threw me the ball," he said. "It really worked out for me, and it felt great."
Lecomte was the Bears' only other double-figure scorer with 10 points, while Zhaire Smith had 15 and Gray 13 for the Red Raiders. Lecomte and Jo Lual-Acuil combined to hit just 5-of-20 from the field, with Lual-Acuil scoring seven points, grabbing eight rebounds, blocking three shots and matching a career high with three assists.
Baylor hosts another top-25 team at the Ferrell Center when the Bears face 20th-ranked West Virginia (19-8, 8-6) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in a game that will be televised by ESPN2. The Mountaineers are coming off a 77-69 loss at Kansas and have dropped five of their last eight.