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Bears Punch Ticket to Title Game

Kevin Rogers takes a shot as Texas' Damion James and Dexter Pittman defend in the first half. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)

Kevin Rogers takes a shot as Texas' Damion James and Dexter Pittman defend in the first half. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)

March 13, 2009

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - LaceDarius Dunn hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:12 remaining and Baylor ended a 24-game losing streak against Texas, advancing to the Big 12 championship game for the first time with a 76-70 victory Friday night.

Kevin Rogers scored 20 points and Henry Dugat added 17 as the ninth-seeded Bears (20-13) kept their desperate NCAA tournament hopes alive with their third upset in as many days. The only team to advance to the Big 12 title game with a lower seed was 10th-seeded Missouri, which did it in the tournament's inaugural year in 1997.

No team seeded lower than third has won the tournament.

A.J. Abrams scored 20 points to lead Texas (22-11), which had reached the finals the past three years. Damion James added 11 points and Gary Johnson 10.

Baylor had not beaten its in-state rival since 1998, before Rick Barnes took over as the Longhorns' coach and reeled off two dozen wins against the opponent Texas has played more than anyone else in its history.

After backup guard Varez Ward scored four straight points to put Texas up 65-61 with 2:39 left, the Bears reeled off eight straight points to take a surprising lead.

Dunn had his first 3-point try swatted out of bounds by Damion James at the left wing, but he came right back moments later and connected from the opposite side to put Baylor up 67-65. Abrams missed a 3-pointer at the other end before Curtis Jerrells hit two foul shots to stretch the Bears' lead to four.

A deep 3-pointer by Abrams got Texas back within 72-70, but Dunn then sealed it with four more free throws. Baylor's bench emptied onto the court as players celebrated a long-sought win.

Dunn finished with 16 points and Jerrells added 13. The Bears outrebounded Texas 35-27 and had 21 points off of their 18 offensive rebounds.

After breaking a 20-year NCAA tournament drought last year, the Bears headed into the Big 12 tourney destined for the NIT at best. They started out the season 12-1 and spent seven weeks in the Top 25, but then stumbled all the way out of the NCAA tournament discussion with a six-game losing streak in the middle of Big 12 play.

Hope only returned with a stunning upset of 11th-ranked Kansas, marking just the second time the Big 12's top seed had fallen in the quarterfinals. The only other time that happened was back in 2001, when the Bears made their only other semifinal appearance after knocking off No. 1 seed Iowa State.

Now, they're on to the finals to see if they can finish off an even more improbable run Saturday against No. 14 Missouri.

After falling behind by as many as 12 in the first half, the Bears charged ahead soon after halftime with a 13-0 run that featured eight points by Dugat. He had a jumper that Tweety Carter followed with a 3-pointer from the top of the key before Dugat came back with a 3 of his own and a then converted a three-point play off of a floater in the lane to put the Bears up 46-45.

Rogers followed that with a jumper from the right elbow to put Baylor up by three, and the lead went back and forth from there.

 

 

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