WACO, Texas — The Baylor Bears need to win every game they can to improve their NCAA tournament hopes.
They will unapologetically take even the ugly ones like this.
Royce O’Neale scored 16 points and had 12 rebounds as Baylor beat Texas Tech 59-49 Saturday even as the Bears went the final 8 minutes without making a field goal.
“I told the guys before the game this is our season. We need to win these games,” said Baylor senior Brady Heslip, who had 14 points including four 3-pointers. “I don’t think everyone fully understands how important this game was. We need to win two more.”
The Bears (19-10, 7-9 Big 12), who were the NIT champions last year, led 50-36 after Taurean Prince completed a three-point play with 8:05 left. They didn’t make another field goal, but Kenny Chery hit seven consecutive free throws in the final 3 minutes before a miss.
Baylor shot only 30 percent from the field (16 of 53), its worst-shooting game in a victory in coach Scott Drew’s 11 seasons. It was the lowest shooting percentage for a Big 12 team in a victory this season.
But the Bears had a 40-24 rebounding margin, and in an unusual twist they had more offensive boards than defensive ones (21-19).
“You have to compliment Baylor. They dominated the boards,” Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said. “Even though they were struggling shooting the ball, I thought we did an adequate job there defensively. We couldn’t limit them to one shot and that was pretty much the ball game.”
Robert Turner had 12 points for Texas Tech (13-16, 5-11), which had beaten Baylor at home by 10 points. Toddrick Gotcher and Aaron Ross each had 10 points.
The Red Raiders have lost five in a row since a three-game winning streak.
Next for Baylor is the regular-season home finale Tuesday night against No. 15 Iowa State.
“Next one is a big one. Senior night, and everyone wants to win their last game,” Drew said. “We know it will be very emotional. We know the importance of it. ... You don’t want to put too much pressure on any situation. We all know that affects people differently.”
Heslip and O’Neale had consecutive 3s that put Baylor up 43-27 less than 4 minutes after halftime. But both teams went nearly 5 minutes without a basket midway through the second half.
Even with Baylor’s miserable shooting, the Red Raider never got closer than five points after halftime. They did that twice, on a reverse layup by Ross and then his short jumper after the first of Chery’s closing stretch of free throws.
Chery made 9 of 10 free throws while missing all six of his field goal attempts (five of them 3s). Baylor’s two big men, Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin, were a combined 1-of-11 shooting.
Texas Tech’s only lead came on Dejan Kravic’s tip-in for a 2-0 lead 72 seconds into the game. Heslip hit a 3-pointer on Baylor’s next possession.
The game was tied twice, the last at 12-all before an 8-0 run by Baylor midway through the first half that was capped by Jefferson’s 3-pointer. The Bears scored the last seven points before halftime for a 33-22 lead, when Kravic had already scored all of his eight points.
“They just outhustled us on the rebounds. We’re strong enough down there. I don’t know,” Ross said. “We should have won this game, but like I said, we weren’t hustling and we weren’t getting after the rebounds.”