WACO, Texas (AP)—Baylor thought finals were over. The 21st-ranked Bears got an unexpected test instead.
Curtis Jerrells scored 29 points and Baylor survived a scare from Texas-Arlington, winning 79-76 Saturday night in the first game after a break for finals.
“When you’re off for a week, maybe that led to a sluggish start in the first half,” coach Scott Drew said. “In the second half, our leadership really paid off. We had a lot of positives.”
The Bears (9-1) trailed 41-32 at the break, their first halftime deficit of the season, and never led by more than one point in the first half. Baylor had been off since a 90-63 win over Prairie View A&M on Dec. 13.
Jerrells gave the Bears their first lead of the second half on a drive and spinning layup with 6:12 left. His jumper and another by Kevin Rogers put Baylor up 70-65, completing a 10-0 spurt—the only sustained run for either team.
Jerrells hit three of four free throws in the final minute, his only miss with 16.9 seconds left. Texas-Arlington rebounded and had a chance to tie, but Anthony Vereen’s 3-point attempt bounced off the rim and Baylor’s Fred Ellis grabbed the rebound to seal it.
Jerrells made 16 of 17 free throws. Tweety Carter and Rogers each scored 13 and Henry Dugat had 11 points.
Vereen scored 28 to lead Texas-Arlington (4-5), Marquez Haynes scored 14, Tommy Moffitt had 12 points and Roge’r Guignard scored 10.
Four of Texas-Arlington’s five losses have been by three points or fewer.
“We’ve had too many moral victories this season,” coach Scott Cross said. “This was one of our better-played games. We played a very solid defense.”
That defense held Baylor 42 percent shooting, including 35 percent in the first half.
“It was good that they got on us,” Jerrells said. “It was a good test. It showed us what our team is about. We’ve got to be more prepared. We’ve got to play better in the first half.”
Texas-Arlington stretched the lead to 11 on its first field goal of the second half, the biggest lead for either team.
Baylor trailed 49-40 with 15:45 remaining in the game before a jumper in the lane by Jerrells and a 3-pointer from Dugat cut the lead to four. The teams swapped buckets before LaceDarius Dunn’s 3 cut the lead to 51-50 with 13:06 to play.
Texas-Arlington led 53-52 before a 3-pointer from Guignard and a 3-pointer and two free throws by Vereen put the Mavericks back up 61-52 with 10:38 remaining.
Dunn, Baylor’s leading scorer at 16.9 points per game, was largely ineffective. He picked up three fouls in the first half and played just 20 minutes, eventually fouling out with 3:45 left after scoring nine points.