With Texas’ NCAA tournament hopes on the line, sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor showed up just in time to save the day.
As No. 14 Baylor built its lead and was staving off the Longhorns, Taylor was watching from the bench. Taylor played 40 minutes against Iowa State, 34 at Kansas, but a season-low 15 Monday night.
“It was my choice,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “He wasn’t doing what we needed him to do defensively is why he didn’t play.”
Instead, junior guards Javan Felix and Demarcus Holland led Texas back from a 10-point deficit late in the second half. But when sophomore guard Kendal Yancy came up limping in the first minute of overtime, Barnes was forced to go back to his star point guard — and he didn’t disappoint.
A baseline runner got him going, and a midcourt scuffle got him heated. His signature floater sealed a much-needed 61–59 overtime victory for Texas over Baylor.
“Give me the ball, and I’ll get the bucket,” Taylor said on the game-winner.
He scored 7 in the game, and 4 points in a hard-fought overtime in which he and his team struggled for a win.
Going after a loose ball with Baylor’s Taurean Prince midway through overtime, Taylor took an incidental elbow that busted open his lip and cleared the benches for a scuffle at the scorer’s table. Yancy, junior forward Connor Lammert and junior centers Prince Ibeh and Cameron Ridley were ejected for leaving the Texas bench. Three Baylor players faced the same penalty. No punches were thrown, meaning that no players will be facing any further discipline.
The Bears (22–8, 10–7 Big 12) led throughout and held a 10-point lead with less than seven minutes remaining as Baylor dominated Texas (18–12,7–10 Big 12). The Bears held a 46–30 rebounding advantage total and totaled 21 offensive boards.
“They out-rebounded us like crazy,” Holland said.
But Texas went on a 16–6 run to tie the game capped by senior forward Jonathan Holmes’ 3-pointer with just over a minute left.
Baylor had its chance late, though. Guard Kenny Cherry got a mismatch on Ibeh, got a step and went straight to the rim. Ibeh, charging hard, got back just in time to swat the layup attempt and save Texas’ season in regulation.
“You got Prince out there playing great defense,” Holland said. “He has great timing on blocking shots.”
Texas, with Taylor on the bench, then held the ball for the last shot of regulation. With seconds left, Holmes fired up a long, contested 3-pointer that never really had a chance.
“I should have put [Taylor] back at the end of regulation,” Barnes said. “That was my fault. Glad it worked out.”
In overtime, Texas controlled the pace of the game, owning the lead for the majority of it. However, a 3-pointer by Baylor’s Royce O’Neale tied things up with just 1:19 remaining, and the score set the stage for Taylor’s dramatics.
“It gives us another breath,” Barnes said.
Texas will finish its season Saturday against Kansas State in another must-win.
“We fought for it; we earned it,” Felix said. “Now we got to focus on preparing for Saturday night’s game.”