Longhorns ruffled by stingy Baylor defense

Baylor’s defense flustered, hoodwinked and bamboozled Texas for all of 40 minutes.

Clean looks at the basket were sparse, while defensive rebounding struggles and air balls were far too common in Texas’ 59-44 loss to Baylor in Saturday’s Big 12 opener. The Longhorns’ 44 points marked an all-time low under head coach Shaka Smart as Texas struggled to find momentum against a scrappy-but-talented No. 6 Baylor team.

“We’re a better scoring team than that,” Smart said. “We got in the paint a ton in the first half, we just didn’t make good decisions or finish. We’ve got to finish better around the basket.”

Drives inside the paint were met with brutal resistance, physicality and length the Longhorns couldn’t match. Baylor closed the first half with a 9-0 run to put Texas down double digits at the intermission, the second time in three games the Horns have faced such a deficit.

“When you try to come back from a halftime deficit, you want to run offense where you create open shots or create opportunities,” Smart said. “We need to move the ball. We need to attack more and it helps when we make more shots.” 

Despite their worst-scoring first half of the season, the Longhorns still only trailed by 13 points at halftime and managed to cut the deficit in half nearly seven minutes into the second thanks to a Baylor offense unable to gain traction and a handful of lucky breaks.

As poor as the Longhorns played offensively, shooting under 35% from the field, Baylor’s offense struggled just as mightily.

The Bears managed to connect on five threes but shot a season-low 31% from the field. Nineteen offensive rebounds were the Bears’ saving grace in the win.

“When you make a good offensive team miss on their first shot, you can’t let them get it back 19 times,” Smart said, emphasizing rebounding in practice. “That’s something that we have to get better at fast.”

Texas, unable to connect from beyond the arc, followed another season trend: live by the three, die by the three. Saturday night was a prime example of the latter.

The Longhorns shot their second-fewest attempts from deep on the season and made only three total, another season low. But even when the Longhorns had good scoring opportunities, particularly at the free throw line, they were continually unable to capitalize.

“Our guys need to be more assertive and aggressive,” Smart said. “When they get in the game, they gotta have it in them to step up and shoot the ball.”

A ghastly 5-15 from the free throw line proved the icing on the cake of Texas’ abysmal offensive performance. 

To make matters worse, Smart revealed after the game that junior point guard Matt Coleman did not practice this week due to illness. Coleman finished with nine points and only one assist, a transition bounce pass to Andrew Jones for an and-one early in the first half.

With an upcoming home match against rival Oklahoma looming, Smart and the Longhorns have some problems to solve.

“Even though we played so bad, we still had chances to win,” Coleman said. “We talk about having the fight, the will and responding, but at the same time, you’ve got to make plays as well.”

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