AUSTIN, Texas — Anybody can play well at home, according to Texas junior Jonathan Holmes.
The 24th-ranked Longhorns have done that all season long and such was the case again Wednesday night in a 74-69 win over a group of persistent Baylor Bears.
Fans came ready to toast the Longhorns' success and spend $8 for beer and wine for the first time at a UT sporting event. But the long-discussed plans to serve alcohol have been held up the last two days while UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa looks things over one last time, two sources said.
Sporting the alternative gray uniform, Texas guard Javan Felix went 7 for 9 from 3-point range and finished with 21 points. He was three shy of tying the school 3-pointer record that Al Coleman set against Kansas State in January 1997.
Texas' offense always does better when it utilizes Cam Ridley. The 6-foot-9 center had nine shots in the first half, two fewer than the last two games combined, and 13 total en route to a 20-point night.
But the game wasn't over until Isaiah Taylor drove on Baylor's Kenny Chery. Taylor shook off Chery at the elbow and went up for a left-handed layup with 47 seconds remaining. That drive, and two more subsequent Taylor free throws, left a crowd of 9,625 standing and roaring, fueled by soda, water and excitement alone.
Baylor (18-10, 6-9 Big 12) looked like it was half asleep in the first half. Coach Scott Drew's club looked nothing like the same team that won four straight. The Bears were angling for their first five-game conference winning streak since January 1998.
So how can the Longhorns (21-7, 10-5) look so good at home and so lousy on the road?
Coach Rick Barnes' club is now 15-2 at the Erwin Center this season. But the Longhorns have lost three straight road games by an average of 19 points. Last week's two road losses ended Texas' chances to win the Big 12.
Barnes seemed perplexed himself after the Kansas debacle, an 85-54 loss that was over not long after pregame introductions. "We're not the team we were two weeks ago," he said. And certainly not the team that beat Kansas in Austin on Feb. 1.
Texas went into Wednesday's game shooting 46.4 percent at home compared to 38.5 percent on the road. That's a startling drop-off.
It's definitely not a lack of focus. The Longhorns went into the Baylor game having made 65.9 percent of their free throws in front of quiet home crowds and 67.4 percent in front of zany fanatics on the road.
There's only one home game left this season, next Wednesday's matchup with Big 12 cellar-dweller TCU. From here on out, every game of consequence is on the road.
Thus, it was crucial that Texas start rebuilding some momentum and positive vibes. That's exactly what the Longhorns did against the Bears.
Felix was a perfect 5 for 5 from beyond the arc in the first half, the first Longhorn to accomplish that feat since Avery Bradley did it in 2010. Taylor made a scintillating layup, as did Conner Lammert. Ridley threw down a two-handed jam after a look-what-I-found rebound landed in his lap as Texas took a 42-27 halftime lead.