By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Monday night, Terry Maston's was smoking hot.
Scoring 22 of his career-high 26 points in the second half and two overtime periods, the 6-foot-8 senior forward was a sizzling 12-of-17 from the field in leading the streaking Bears to a 74-73, double-overtime win over the slumping Texas Longhorns before a crowd of 9,204 at the Frank Erwin Center.
"TJ Maston was tremendous," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team reeled off its fourth straight win and sixth consecutive against the Longhorns (15-11, 5-8), improving to 16-10 overall and alone in sixth place in the Big 12 at 6-7. "The big thing is we kept getting him the ball, too. Everybody feels they can make a play, but when you've got a guy rolling, there's something to be said about turning something down or not forcing something to give him another chance."
It looked like Maston's career night wasn't going to be enough when Texas took late leads in the second OT period on an Eric Davis 3-pointer and Kerwin Roach's layup, going up 73-72.
But, when Lecomte missed a driving layup over UT freshman center Mo Bamba, Lual-Acuil came up with an offensive rebound on the back side and dunked it home to give the Bears the lead back with just eight seconds left.
"I knew Mo was going to come over and try to block Manu's shot," said Lual-Acuil, who logged 48 of the game's 50 minutes while recording his 11th double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds, "so I just stayed on the other side. I was hoping for the ball to come off the rim the right way, and I was able to go up and grab it."
The Longhorns had a last shot to win it. And as he did at the end of the first overtime, when he canned a pair of free throws with 3.2 seconds left, Roach tried to answer in the closing seconds with a short jumper from the right side. But, when he came up short, Maston fittingly sealed it by getting the game's last rebound.
"It really takes a great team to win on the road in double overtime like we did," Lual-Acuil said. "It shows how much toughness and grit we have, and I'm just so proud of this team."
Two weeks ago, the Bears were sitting alone at the bottom of the conference standings at 2-7, losing six of seven in a January tailspin. With the gentle flip of the calendar, they're now a perfect 4-0 in February and have a legitimate shot at finishing in the top half of the league and returning to the NCAA Tournament for a school-record fifth year in a row.
"I think we're really turning it around in conference after the first half, and we're just clicking right now on offense and defense," said Maston, who had his third 20-point game of the season and topped his previous high of 23 that he had against Iowa State in the game that started this run.
"Our zone is really tough, and Manu is really leading us. He's hitting big shots and Jo is getting rebounds and being a force in the paint. Me, Nuni, Mark (Vital), everybody is just doing their job and we're doing it really well. That's what's helping us the most."
Lecomte added 16 points and seven assists in 46 minutes for the Bears, while Jake Lindsey chipped in with seven points and Vital had three points, nine boards and three assists. Bamba had a monster double-double with 16 points, 16 boards and four blocks, with Osetkowski, Coleman and Roach each scoring 15 for the Longhorns.
Nothing came easy on a night that saw both teams struggle offensively. The Longhorns hit just one of their first 13 shots to start the game, then missed nine of their first 10 in the second half and were a dismal 3-of-19 from 3-point range for the game.
"Obviously, we came up one stop short or one basket short, depending on how you're looking at it," said Texas coach Shaka Smart, whose team has lost three in a row. "The guys are really upset. It makes it tough. With that being said, particularly in the first half, they didn't let it get them down at all. There were some good looks that we didn't make. . . . A slow start makes it tough, but our guys battled, forced overtime and took a lead. When we had the lead, we just were unable to stop them."
Specifically, they couldn't stop Maston. And it didn't matter whether he was shooting high-arching shots over 6-9 forward Dylan Osetkowski or fooling the 6-11 Bamba with an Olajuwon-like "dream shake" for an easy layup.
"I think our team does a great job of doing that. When somebody's hot, we always go back to him until somebody stops him," Lual-Acuil said. "TJ played phenomenal. He pretty much carried us down the stretch." Baylor, which had an 8-0 run at the end of the first half to take a 25-22 lead into the break, stretched it to as many as nine midway through the second half and went up 51-43 and forced UT to take a timeout with 4:08 left after Lecomte fed Maston for a jumper.
The Longhorns forced overtime by outscoring the Bears, 13-5, in the last four minutes, with Matt Coleman hitting a pair of clutch free throws with 12.2 seconds after Lecomte missed one of two on the other end. Just as it did for most of the first half, Baylor kept feeding Maston in the first overtime period and he scored six straight to give the Bears a 62-58 lead with 1:35 remaining. Coleman and then Roach knocked down two free throws apiece to send it to a second OT.
This time, Baylor had enough to finish it, even though Texas hit back-to-back go-ahead shots in the last two minutes.
"We just didn't do a good job with Terry Maston. He had a phenomenal game," Smart said. "A couple of those baskets were a result of us trying to take away Lecomte. But, you have to take away both. Then, there were a couple situations at the end of the game where we couldn't get a stop."
Baylor plays three of its next four at home, facing seventh-ranked and league-leading Texas Tech (21-4, 9-3) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Ferrell Center. The Red Raiders hot 23rd-ranked Oklahoma on Tuesday in an ESPN matchup.
Drew made a plea to fill the Ferrell, saying "crowds help everybody."
"That's human nature," he said, "when any place is packed, it helps. The best thing as a coach is you don't have to motivate them the entire game."