Sophomore guard Javan Felix has struggled at times this year, sophomore center Cam Ridley has the occasional off night and freshman guard Isaiah Taylor is currently on a cold streak of his own. But one man has been the emblem of consistency for Texas this season: junior forward Jonathan Holmes.
That was not the case on Friday night, when Holmes was held scoreless in the first half and finished with just six points on 12 field goal attempts. The junior forward’s rare inefficiency, combined with the tribulations of several of his Longhorn teammates, resulted in the Longhorns dropping an 86–69 decision to the Baylor Bears in their Big 12 semifinal matchup at the Sprint Center.
“We didn’t execute on offense and we didn’t keep them off the board on defense,” Holmes said. “So they were tougher than us tonight.”
Holmes’ poor performance was most uncharacteristic, but he was just one of many Texas scorers who were handcuffed by Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone defense. The Longhorns appeared perplexed by the scheme, failing to find open looks on the perimeter or successfully enter the ball into the post.
Felix had just two points on the night and only attempted four field goals. The sophomore guard was averaging almost 12 attempts per contest coming into the game, but was unable to generate shot opportunities against the stout zone.
“They sagged off Demarcus [Holland] and Isaiah [Taylor] and they shaded towards me,” Felix said. “That makes it tough to get shots up. If I’m not getting open looks and I’m not shooting the ball, then our team is stagnant.”
For Ridley and sophomore center Prince Ibeh, the interior touches just weren’t there. Texas’ guards failed to find ways to get the ball inside to the big men, even when they were able to get a seal on the block. The two centers were efficient, converting six of their nine attempts, but just never had an opportunity to impact the game.
“[Baylor’s] whole defense was just sagging in on us,” Ibeh said. “ That was something they put an emphasis on. We needed to make some mid-range shots to open it up but those shots just weren’t falling.”
Defensively, the Longhorns failed to defend Baylor’s 3-point shooting. Led by senior guard Brady Heslip, the Bears came into the contest as one of the top 30 3-point shooting teams in the country and, by the final horn, they’d proven why. Heslip had six triples of his own while his teammates added six more. Scott Drew’s team converted 50 percent of its attempts from deep in the game.
The blowout loss obviously comes at a bad time for Texas, who will now have to find a way to refocus and correct its mistakes before the NCAA Tournament kicks off next week. The Longhorns will find out their seed, opponent and regional on Sunday but regardless of who they play, a performance like tonight’s will not get the job done.
“We have to watch the film and see what we did wrong,” sophomore forward Connor Lammert said after the loss. “We have to know the feeling we’re feeling right now and we just can’t accept that anymore. We have to know that if we feel this again, it’s the end of the season for us.”