Freshman guard Isaiah Taylor and the Texas Longhorns are floating high in the Big 12 - and against ranked teams.
Taylor kept penetrating against slumping No. 24 Baylor, often using the glass to make shots, and scored a career-high 27 points in a 74-60 victory Saturday that gave the Longhorns their fifth straight win.
They have won three consecutive games against ranked teams for the first time in school history.
"I was really feeling it," Taylor said. "Having their guys have to respect (teammates) opened up the lane for me."
The Longhorns (16-4, 5-2 Big 12) have already matched their victory total from last season. And they could be a ranked team themselves when they play again, next Saturday at home against Big 12-leading and No. 8 Kansas.
Asked if his team is ready to be ranked and labeled a Big 12 contender, coach Rick Barnes responded, "We'll find out" and said he told his team that's important to do.
"I said, 'Guys, what's fun about this is if you want to be really good, when you really find out how tough you are is when people are now coming after you,'" he said. "But I still think we are the kind of team that we have to stay on edge all the time."
Baylor (13-6, 1-5), coming off a 10-point loss at Kansas on Monday night, led only once - for about less than a minute late in the first half - before losing its fourth straight. It is the Bears' longest losing streak since dropping six in a row five years ago, and they have lost consecutive games at the Ferrell Center after a 13-game home winning streak.
"At the end of day, we like this team, we're not going to give up, we're going to keep fighting," coach Scott Drew said. "Last year, we were at this time 5-1 (in the Big 12). We thought everything was great and finished 9-9. ... We'd rather finish well than start well, so we'll see what we can do."
Gary Franklin, who led the Bears with 14 points, said there was a players-only meeting after the game and they are going to figure out how to correct things.
Jonathan Holmes had 14 points and eight rebounds for Texas and Cameron Ridley had eight points and 14 rebounds.
When the Bears got within 46-39 midway through the second half, Taylor scored seven points in a span of 76 seconds.
Taylor's spurt began with a three-point play, when he drove and made a tough short jumper from the side of the rim while being fouled. Taylor penetrated for another short jumper and then after Taurean Prince's slam for Baylor, Taylor scored again to push the lead back to 11 points, 53-42, with 8:47 left.
"They had to worry about it all night," Holmes said of Taylor's penetration. "When we would set screens up at the top, he was able to get in the lane and create, either a shot or dish to one of the bigs. He did a real good job penetrating and making the right play."
The Longhorns lost their first two Big 12 games, including an 87-74 loss at No. 11 Oklahoma State. After a 10-point win over then-No. 8 Iowa State last weekend, they won Tuesday night over No. 22 Kansas State when Holmes made a game-winning catch-and-shoot 3-pointer at the buzzer.
It was the 241st meeting against Baylor in the most-played series for both teams whose campuses are located about 100 miles apart along Interstate 35. Texas has a 159-82 series lead, and had won 24 straight until 2009.
Baylor had its only lead on Prince's jumper with 4Â½ minutes left in the first half that made it 22-21. Prince finished with 12 points.
A minute later, Taylor handed the ball to Prince Ibeh, who had a powerful two-handed slam that put the Longhorns ahead to stay. Texas led 31-27 at halftime after Martez Walker finally made the first 3-pointer of the game with 19 seconds left.
The Horns have made 3-pointers in 776 consecutive games, the Big 12's longest streak ahead of Baylor's 713. But teams struggled from beyond the arc against each other - each shooting 18 percent. The Horns finished 2 of 11 and Baylor was 3 of 17 after coming into the game as the Big 12 leader shooting 40 percent.
"At Kansas, we came out we shot with confidence," Drew said. "We tried the same approach today and unfortunately I thought we took some bad shots. ... I thought we were rushing them, we were hurrying them."
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