WACO, Texas (AP)—Texas coach Rick Barnes was talking about how hard his team fought, expounding on all the things the 11th-ranked Longhorns had to do to win.
Still, Barnes really shouldn’t have been all that surprised with the outcome.
In his 11 seasons, the Longhorns have never lost to Baylor.
Texas made it 23 consecutive victories in the series Tuesday night, when A.J. Abrams scored 19 points while matching the Big 12 career record for 3-pointers in a 78-72 victory over the Bears.
“We knew both teams would dig in and play as hard as we can play,” Barnes said. “Defensively, I thought we were really good. Offensively, we go through spurts where we struggle. … This was as complete a win as we’ve had as a team.”
And yet just another victory for the Longhorns (15-4, 4-1 Big 12) against the rival located less than 100 miles north on Interstate 35. Baylor last won in the series in 1998.
“Like all Baylor fans, we’re tired of being on the short end,” said coach Scott Drew, now 0-12 against the Longhorns.
Baylor (15-5, 3-3), coming off a 19-point loss at Oklahoma that was its 29th straight loss in that series, was within a basket of the Longhorns with 1:23 left when LaceDarius Dunn hit two free throws.
But Abrams then dribbled inside the 3-point line with a minute to play and hit a jumper for his last points of the game. Abrams then fouled Tweety Carter on a 3-pointer shot, but Carter missed all three free throws—having already missed his only other two in the game.
“You’ve just got to take what the defense gives you,” Abrams said. “I had open shots in the first half from 3. Obviously they were going to make adjustments and you’ve got to change.”
Abrams matched the Big 12 record with his 338th career 3-pointer, his third of the game coming 14 1/2 minutes into the game. He didn’t make another one, leaving him tied with Jeff Boschee, who played at Kansas from 1999-2002.
“He’s been a great player for four years,” Drew said. “He does a great job coming off screens. … We did a pretty good job, but lost him a couple of times in the zone and that hurt us.”
The game was tied 13 times, but the 13th and final lead change came when Gary Johnson was credited with a basket after Kevin Rogers was called for goaltending with 4:20 left to make it 64-62. Dogus Balbay had a breakaway layup on the next possession after a Baylor miss.
Curtis Jerrells, who is from Austin, led Baylor with 14 points in his 100th career start. He is only the third 100-game starter in Bears history, starting every game.
Rogers added 13 points and 12 rebounds. Dunn had 12 points and Quincy Acy 11.
Damion James, coming off a 28-point game against Texas A&M on Saturday, had 14 points despite shooting 6-for-20. James missed his first seven shots, but had 12 rebounds.
When James finally scored with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half, that tied the game at 21. Less than a minute later, after Dunn made a free throw, James made a tough 12-foot jumper in traffic to put Texas up the rest of the half.
Johnson’s basket opened the second-half scoring and put Texas up 29-24. The Longhorns then were scoreless for more than 3 minutes and Baylor built its biggest lead of the game.
The Longhorns had a 24-second span when they had three turnovers, only one fewer than they had in the first half. That came during a 10-0 run that pushed Baylor ahead. (Texas finished with only 10 turnovers).
A steal by Jerrells led to a slam dunk by Acy, who was fouled and added the free throw. Carter then stole the ball from Abrams, his second turnover in a matter of seconds. Carter missed his breakaway jumper, but Acy’s had a putback dunk.
Carter added a 3-pointer on the next possession for a 33-29 Bears lead, and Rogers’ free throw after that provided their biggest advantage.
Abrams is already the Texas career leader for 3-pointers made and attempted (850). Travis Mays is second on the Longhorns list with 246 made 3-pointers from 1987-90.
With 120 3-pointers in 2006-07 and 118 last year, Abrams has the top two single-season marks in conference history. He has 54 this season. Missouri’s Clarence Gilbert also had 118 in 2001-02.