By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
AUSTIN, Texas - All year long, Scott Drew's been able to dip into his bench and come up with answers.
Even with two players missing from his 10-man rotation, the 11th-ranked Baylor Bears (25-6, 12-6) got big production from their bench and closed out the regular season with a 75-64 win over the Texas Longhorns (10-21, 4-14) Saturday afternoon to tie for second in the league and earn the No. 3 seed for next week's Big 12 Championships in Kansas City.
"That's the strength of our team is chemistry, leadership and depth," Drew said. "As a coach, you just never know who's going to be impactful or have that night. Chuck Mitchell, nine points; he said he called the one 3 a bank, so I believe him. And then King (McClure) was tremendous, Jake (Lindsey) was tremendous. Those three gave us a big lift."
Starting point guard Manu Lecomte missed his second game with a sprained left ankle, and junior forward Terry Maston was suspended one game for "violation of team policy." But, the starting backcourt duo of Lindsey and McClure combined for 28 points and three 3-pointers, with Mitchell knocking down three first-half 3-pointers during a critical stretch.
"I've been on the Chuck Mitchell bandwagon for a long time," said Lindsey, who had 16 points, four assists and only one turnover from the point guard position. "In the next couple years, he can be our best player, a guy who can play in the NBA. He's that kind of talented."
Junior forward Johnathan Motley had an off night shooting, hitting just 6-of-17 from the floor, but recorded his Big 12-best 13th double-double with 17 points and 17 boards. In two games against Texas this season, he had 49 points and 37 rebounds.
"Shaq (Cleare), (Jarrett) Allen, (James) Banks, they did a good job making it tough for him to score inside," Drew said. "But, I think over the years, going against Rico (Gathers) every day in practice, he's picked up some of Rico's rebounding techniques. That's probably because he got yelled at in practice all the time for Rico getting rebounds. But, he was tremendous on the offensive glass. Anytime you have eight offensive rebounds, that's spectacular."
The Longhorns' inside duo of Cleare and Allen had a combined 34 points and 18 rebounds and were 15-of-22 from the floor. But, the rest of the team was just 11-of-42, including 6-of-21 from 3-point range.
Baylor hit six of its first 10 from outside the arc and finished 9-for-20 while shooting 45 percent overall (27-of-60).
"I thought we struggled stopping them in the first half, inside-wise," Drew said, "and then when we were able to get a couple stops and knock down some 3's and get a little separation, I thought that was a big turning point early in the game."
With Mitchell leading the way, hitting all three of his 3-point attempts, Baylor shot a sizzling 55 percent from outside the arc in the first half and took a 40-29 lead into the break. The redshirt freshman guard nailed a trey at the 2:07 mark to complete an 18-6 run and give the Bears a 16-point lead before UT scored the last five points of the half.
The lead changed hands 10 times in the first eight minutes, with Allen and Cleare scoring the Longhorns' first 20 points. Mitchell knocked down his first 3-pointer to give Baylor the lead for good, 17-14.
"When you take good looks, it's about making open shots," Lindsey said. "(Hitting) 9-for-20, you'd obviously take that most days. We focus on the type of attempts we're taking. You have to take good shots. If someone leaves you open, you shoot. You have to play confidently out there, that's our motto. You don't go and play timid."
With Baylor going scoreless in the first three minutes of the second half, missing four shots and a pair of free throws on one frustrating possession, Texas pulled to within five with a layup by Kendal Yancy and back-to-back buckets by Allen. The 6-11 freshman, a projected NBA lottery pick who could have played his last game at the Frank Erwin Center, finished with a game-high 20 points to go with nine rebounds and three blocks.
But, every time the Longhorns threatened to get back in it, Baylor answered.
Motley ended the scoring drought with a layup, then completed a three-point play with a layup and follow free throw that pushed the lead back to double digits.
"It's always nice when everyone contributes," Motley said. "It just makes it a little more fun for everybody. We've got to keep other players honest. When other teams scout and see our guards making shots, it makes them think that maybe they can't double-team me as much as they've done in the past."
Texas clawed its way back in again, with Kerwin Roach burying a 3-pointer and then Yancy feeding Cleare for a layup that made it a six-point game, 52-46, with just under 10 minutes to play.
The Longhorns had three chances to make it even closer, but Allen and Cleare both missed inside shots and Roach had a 3-pointer rim out.
McClure and Jo Lual-Acuil knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers, followed by a Lual-Acuil layup and a Lindsey trey that pushed the lead back out to 63-48 with less than five minutes to play.
Baylor tied a pair of program records with most regular-season victories (25) and Big 12 wins (12) and matched its best-ever finish in league play, tying for second place with West Virginia and Iowa State.
Seeded third for the Big 12 Championships in Kansas City, the Bears will face sixth-seeded Kansas State (19-12) at 8 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals. The Wildcats locked down the No. 6 seed and boosted their NCAA Tournament resume with Saturday's 61-48 win over Texas Tech.
"I think we have a lot of confidence going into the Big 12 tournament," Motley said. "We're trying to do some big things here. We're all about making history, and no other Baylor team has cut down the nets there. And that's our goal."