Longhorns hang on late to defeat Bears for first time in seven years

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

WACO — Deafening cheers from a boisterous green and gold crowd echoed throughout the Ferrell Center on Monday night.  

Baylor fans edged their team on as the No. 2 Bears inched closer and closer to eclipsing the visiting Longhorns on their home court. 

But No. 11 Texas survived a raging Baylor comeback to take down the six-time defending Big 12 Champions for the first time in the team’s last 14 meetings, 85-79. 

Sophomore center Kalani Brown led a furious 13-point comeback in the fourth quarter as spectators clamored for more. But her performance and the hostile atmosphere weren’t too much for the Longhorns to handle. 

“Our composure and our competitiveness was what it has to be to win on someone’s home court as good as Baylor,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “I’m glad that we were really competitive, because that’s what we’re trying to learn to be. Our whole entire team is trying to learn to be competitive on every play.” 

Up by two with 28.9 seconds left, freshman forward Joyner Holmes stood at the free throw line with posters flying in the stands and cheerleaders flying on the baseline. Holmes sunk two free throws to put Texas up by four as the Longhorn bench aired a heavy sigh of relief. 

“We definitely looked at each other and told each other to stay focused,” junior guard Ariel Atkins said. “I think that was really important for us tonight to stay locked in to each other. And to not hear anything but to keep our circle tight tonight.”

The Longhorns snapped the Bears’ 21-game winning streak and handed them their second loss of the season. Baylor’s first loss came at the hands of the country’s No. 1 team –– Connecticut –– on Nov. 17.

The Longhorns are now the lone team atop the Big 12, boasting a perfect conference record and a 17-game winning streak.

Texas needed a hot start to sink the Bears, and that’s exactly what it got. A set of triples from Atkins and junior guard Brooke McCarty, paired with back-to-back buckets from Holmes, gave Texas an early
10-4 advantage.

McCarty sank a triple to beat the first-quarter buzzer, giving Texas a 23-16 lead heading into the
second stanza.

“They came out on fire,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “They were ready to play, they had a lot of energy, they had a lot of fight in them. They just punched us right in
the mouth.”   

Shots came early and fell often for the Longhorns as they executed a lights-out shooting performance against a Baylor team that rarely stumbles on defense. Texas shot 51.6 percent from the field and held the Bears to just 43.9 percent.

A 73.3 percent shooting performance in the second quarter highlighted Texas’ offensive attack that left the Bears without answers. Baylor kept pressing, but Texas kept answering. 

McCarty led the Longhorns with 22 points and inked her way into the Texas record books, becoming the 42nd player in program history to reach the 1,000-point career milestone.

Atkins and Holmes contributed to the winning effort with 20 points and 18 points, respectively. In spite of the victory, Texas still has work to do to stay atop the conference standings. 

“Coach talks about being in the moment, so we’re just staying in the moment, because every game is important,” McCarty said. “That game was really tough, and we just have to keep building from there.”