KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Cory Jefferson had 20 points and 13 rebounds, Isaiah Austin dominated in the paint and seventh-seeded Baylor rolled to an 86-69 victory over Texas on Friday night and into the Big 12 tournament title game for the third time in school history.
Now, the trick is to finally win it. The Bears face No. 16 Iowa State on Saturday night.
Brady Heslip hit six 3-pointers and had 24 points for Baylor (24-10), which has already won three games in three days, and has now won 10 of its last 11 to climb from a precarious position on the NCAA tournament bubble to a firm — and rapidly improving — spot in the field.
Austin had 10 points and seven blocks for Baylor, giving him 17 swats for the tournament. That breaks the record of 11, held by Missouri’s Arthur Johnson from the 2003 event.
The win over the third-seeded Longhorns (23-10) was also the 202nd for Baylor coach Scott Drew, moving him past Bill Henderson and into first place on the school’s career list.
Isaiah Taylor led Texas with 16 points and seven assists. Jonathan Holmes was held to just six points on 3-for-12 shooting while dealing with foul trouble much of the night.
Baylor is the lowest-seeded team to reach the title game since 2009, when the Bears made it as the ninth seed. They lost to Missouri that year, just as they did two years ago.
The Tigers are no longer part of the conference, of course, off to the SEC. And instead, the Bears will take on the Cyclones, who beat No. 10 Kansas 94-83 earlier in the night. Baylor and Iowa State split their two regular-season meetings, each winning at home.
Jefferson was hot right from the start, scoring Baylor’s first nine points and helping the Bears creep to an early lead. He kept going to work inside, even against the Longhorns’ big front line, and the lead eventually grew to 29-18 with about 5 minutes left in the half.
Every time Texas tried to trim into it down the stretch, Baylor countered with a bucket, and Kenny Cherry’s 3-pointer in the closing seconds made it 42-27 at the break.
In fact, the only thing that didn’t go right for Baylor in the first half happened when Gary Franklin chose not to try padding the lead with a court-length heave as time expired. Drew yelled at him, “What are you doing!?” Then he gave his guard a good-natured pat on the butt.
The matchup between old Southwest Conference rivals never got a whole lot more interesting in the second half. Austin kept swatting shots, Jefferson kept scoring around the rim and the Bears kept taking advantage of sloppy Texas off to build on their lead.
Franklin’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to 59-39 with 11:20 remaining, prompting Texas coach Rick Barnes to call a timeout. But it didn’t do a whole lot of good — even when the Longhorns defended well for 34 seconds, somebody would hit a shot with one tick left on the clock.
Texas finally slapped on a full-court press in the closing minutes, getting within 79-67 with a couple minutes left, but the Bears sealed the win at the foul line.
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