AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Baylor has a new scoring threat just in time for the Bears’ stretch run in the Big 12.
Johnathan Motley scored 24 points on 12-of-13 shooting Saturday and the 25th-ranked Bears rolled to an impressive 78-64 victory over No. 24 Texas, handing the Longhorns a rare home loss this season.
Motley, who has become a starter as senior forward Rico Gathers has struggled with the flu, had his second huge game in a week. He scored 27 points in an overtime win over Iowa State and is blossoming just in time as the Bears still have a chance to play for the Big 12 regular-season title with four games left.
“The season’s a long season and you have injuries and illnesses. It takes a team to win,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “To win in the Big 12, you have to have guys stepping up.”
Motley had a perfect game going until missing a 14-footer with 1:15 left to play.
“I was just attacking the basket and making plays for my teammates,” Motley said.
And he was just a part of Baylor’s total domination under the basket. The Bears (20-7, 9-5) outscored Texas 50-32 in the paint and attempted just five 3-pointers. Baylor shot 63 percent.
“We got to own that,” Texas forward Connor Lammert said. “We just let it inside too easy. If you’re giving teams layups it’s certainly tough to win.”
Taurean Prince added 17 points for Baylor, which led by as many as 27 points midway through the second half.
Shaq Cleare scored 14 points for Texas (17-10, 8-6), which lost for just the second time at home this season.
Baylor was nearly perfect in the first half. The Bears forced early turnovers, shot 64 percent and outrebounded Texas 15-5 in the half. Motley had 12 points as the Bears raced to a 40-22 lead.
Texas, so good at the counterpunch over the last month, struggled for long stretches. The Bears’ zone defense refused to give Longhorns point guard Isaiah Taylor any room to drive to the basket. And even when the Bears sagged off Texas shooters, the Longhorns misfired. Texas missed nine of their first 11 3-point attempts.
Motley continued to torment Texas in the second half. Three easy baskets, one on a dunk after Baylor easily broke Texas’ press, put the Bears up 48-26. It wasn’t until Motley picked up his third foul and went to the bench that Texas could get a break defending him.
Cleare scored seven straight points for the Longhorns, but it barely made a difference. When Motley returned, he went straight to the basket for another point-blank score that made it 58-33 with just under 12 minutes left.
Baylor finishes the regular season with league heavyweights Kansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia in three of the next four games.
“We’re in that chance to win the Big 12,” Drew said. “This is that grind time for everybody.”
Baylor: Gathers logged six points in 15 minutes after missing two of the previous three games because of the flu. His comeback could prove big for the Bears down the final stretch of the season whether he returns as a starter or not. The senior is one of the top rebounders in Big 12 history and leads all active Big 12 players with 31 career double-doubles.
Gathers didn’t make the trip to Austin on Friday night with his team and drove down on his own in the morning.
“I was just happy he played,” Drew said. “It takes a lot to keep that man out. We’re just trying to get him well.”
Texas: Taylor, Texas’ scoring leader, had one of his worst games against the Bears’ zone. Taylor finished with 10 points, four turnovers and just three assists.
Other Big 12 rivalries will get more attention, but few will be more intense than Baylor-Texas has been in recent years. On Saturday, Baylor wanted to make a statement after an earlier home loss to the Longhorns.
Asked to rate the Bears’ intensity on a scale of one to 10, Prince answered “15.”
“It’s Baylor-Texas,” Prince said. “At the end of the day, they don’t like us, we don’t’ like them.”
Baylor hosts No. 2 Kansas on Tuesday.
Texas plays at Kansas State on Monday.