AUSTIN (AP) – In and out of favor with coach Rick Barnes all season, Texas shooting guard Sheldon McClellan found the shooting touch to deliver the latest blow to Baylor’s sinking season.
McClellan scored 23 points in 25 minutes off the bench and Texas beat Baylor 79-70 Monday night, sending the Bears to their eighth loss in their last 11 games.
McClellan had been counted on to be Texas’ top scorer this season, but erratic play often found him sitting on the bench for long stretches and sometimes almost entire games. He left Barnes little choice but to keep playing him when he made four of his first five shots against Baylor and kept going from there.
“I don’t really think about it. I move on to the next game,” said McClellan, who played only seven minutes in a loss at Oklahoma State two days earlier. “I try to stay positive. It’s not about me, it’s about the team.”
Texas (14-16, 6-11 Big 12) also got 19 points and eight assists from point guard Myck Kabongo, and 18 points from Ioannis Papapetrou. Papapetrou’s 3-pointer with just under 5 minutes to play stopped a Baylor rally, and Julien Lewis made a 3-pointer in the final 2 minutes that put the Longhorns ahead 70-64.
Baylor, which fell a game short of the Final Four two of the last three seasons, came in needing to make a late push to improve its NCAA tournament chances, but the Bears fell flat against a Longhorns team having its worst season in 15 years.
“It’s real tough,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “I’d like to have been on the other side of some of these games.”
Pierre Jackson scored 22 points to lead Baylor (17-12, 8-9).
Texas led 36-34 at halftime behind 10 points each from Kabongo and McClellan. The Longhorns’ Jonathan Holmes ended the half with a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left.
Texas opened the second half with an 8-2 run. A block by Papapetrou started a fast break that ended with him making a trailing 3-pointer.
Kabongo made a 3-pointer to put Texas ahead by eight before Baylor slowly pushed back and tied it at 55 on Jackson’s long jumper. The Bears took their only lead of the second half on Deuce Bello’s layup off a crosscourt pass from Cory Jefferson with 5:22 to play.
Papapetrou scored two consecutive baskets to put Texas back in front. The second, a 3-pointer from the left corner, came after he missed a tough layup but Cameron Ridley tipped the rebound back out for a wide-open shot that put Texas up 61-57. Ridley followed it with an emphatic dunk off another offensive rebound.
“Today was one of his best games. He was engaged the whole game,” Papapetrou said of Ridley.
Baylor fought to stay within three until Lewis made a 3-pointer and Holmes blocked a dunk by Bello with 1:33 to play.
Baylor still has a last chance to repair its fading NCAA tournament credentials. The Bears host No. 4 Kansas in the regular-season finale on Saturday before the Big 12 tournament.
Drew pointed to the league tournament and the winner’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“We’re running out of opportunities,” Drew said. “As long as we’re playing, we have a chance to control our own destiny.”
Texas fans will be wondering if Monday night was their last chance to watch Kabongo at the Frank Erwin Center. The sophomore flirted with the NBA draft after his freshman season — a move that misfired with a trip to Cleveland for a workout the NCAA later determined was an improper benefit and led to a 23-game suspension.
Texas is 4-3 since Kabongo returned. The Longhorns’ only chance of making the NCAA tournament for the 15th consecutive year will be to win the Big 12 tournament.
Kabongo said Texas is playing its best basketball of the season, but wouldn’t make any predictions.
“It’s been a tough year for us. We’ve just got to keep getting after it every day,” Kabongo said.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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