WACO, Texas (AP)Jalen Bridges, birthday big man Flo Thamba and the rest of ninth-ranked Baylor came together after freshman standout Keyonte George hopped off the court injured early with the Bears in a huge hole.
”He’s young. He has loads of energy. So, when he went out, we just tried to bond together and pick up that energy that he would be out there providing and really just locking in on defense, get stops,” Bridges said. ”It just changed the game around for us.”
Bridges had 17 points for the Bears, who went on to beat Big 12 co-leader and No. 8 Texas 81-72 on Saturday after the Longhorns had jumped out to a 14-point lead.
Adam Flagler added 14 points for the Bears (21-8, 10-6 Big 12), while seldom-used Dale Bonner added 13 points. Thamba, a fifth-year senior playing on his birthday, had 12 points and 12 rebounds for his 13th career double-double.
Dylan Disu had a season-high 24 points for Texas (22-7, 11-5), which never led after halftime. Tyrese Hunter had 13 points for the Longhorns, while Rice and Timmy Allen each had 12. Marcus Carr scored 11.
The Longhorns went into Saturday tied with reigning national champion and third-ranked Kansas for the Big 12 lead. With two regular-season games left, Baylor avoided being eliminated from a still-slim chance to share in its third Big 12 title in a row.
George entered the game averaging 16.9 points, third among Division I freshmen. He got hurt when he took an awkward step when dribbling past midcourt, and lost the ball after taking another step. He then left the court, bypassing the Baylor bench and disappearing into the tunnel that leads to the locker room.
”I don’t know how bad his ankle is or how long he’ll be out,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. ”But I do know one thing, and that is coaches really appreciate and value toughness. And he had a 102 (degree) fever yesterday. I didn’t think he’d play and he gave it a go.”
Without giving a timetable, Drew said he expected George to be back ”soon because he’s a tough kid.”
Sir’Jabari Rice was fouled on a drive as play continued, and hit both free throws to put the Longhorns up 18-4 with 11:32 left in the first half. Baylor then scored 25 of the next 30 points, including 18 in a row.
”They got a bit more aggressive on the defensive end and I guess that led to us, you know, turning over the ball and (them) getting easy offense,” Carr said. ”They’re a team that once they get into rhythm, then they start hitting shots and they’re much tougher to defend.”
BONNER’S BIG STRETCH
Bonner put Baylor ahead by double figures for the first time with a 3-pointer that made it 50-40 with 14:15 left. Bonner had two steals in a 40-second span soon after that, turning both into layups.
”Dale Bonner played a lot early, was out of the rotation, but was an unbelievable teammate and supported his team, but kept working on his game and stayed ready,” Drew said. ”Today I couldn’t be any more happy and pleased for him.”
Texas has been in the top 10 the past 14 polls, but likely will fall below that when the new AP Top 25 is out Monday. The Bears also could be out of the top 10 since they were coming off a 10-point loss at No. 14 Kansas State earlier in the week.
Texas: The Longhorns, who beat Baylor at home 76-71 on Jan. 30, missed out on their first regular-season sweep of the Bears since 2013-14. … In a 16-0 run that gave Texas its big early lead, Disu hit a pair of 3-pointers in 38 seconds after he failed to convert a breakaway dunk attempt.
Baylor: The Bears have won the last six games of the series played in Waco, and 13 of 15 overall. … Baylor is 27-11 against Top 25 teams the last four seasons, the best mark nationally.
Texas plays Wednesday night at No. 24 TCU, which the Longhorns beat 79-75 on Jan. 11.
Baylor goes to Oklahoma State on Monday night after beating the Cowboys 74-58 earlier this season.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll