Texas, a team desperate to extend its NCAA tournament streak to 14 years, needed a signature win.
Instead its fate may have been signed, sealed and delivered by No. 13 Baylor. The Bears, down by as many as 12, came back in the second half behind the inside play of Quincy Acy, and beat Texas 77-72 at the Frank Erwin Center Monday night.
The loss, which was Texas's second in as many games, may just push the Longhorns (17-11, 7-8) off the bubble and into the NIT. The Longhorns have still only beaten one ranked team, No. 22 Temple, and lost eight of nine games decided by two possessions or less.
For the Bears (23-5, 10-5), the win allowed them to find themselves again after an upset loss against Kansas State at the Ferrell Center. The win also puts the Bears alone in third place heading into the last three games of the Big 12 season.
With the loss, Texas fell to sixth in the Big 12, just ahead of Oklahoma State.
Like most of their games against ranked opponents, the Longhorns were in the game until the final minutes. In fact, in this one Texas had the ball in the hands of its best scorer, J'Covan Brown, down just three with less than 15 seconds left. But Brown, who had a team-high 18 points that all came from behind the arc, threw the ball away. It is the second time Brown has passed the ball rather than shoot the potential game-winning or tying shot. He also did it in a loss to Missouri.
Star of the game: This was a game when the big-time players are supposed to rise to the occasion. Perry Jones III never did. Instead, it was the much less heralded Acy who took over down the stretch. The post player scored eight straight during a crucial stretch, including a free throw after an attempted putback to seal the game with 1:00 to go. Acy finished with 22 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
What the win means for Baylor: The Bears had been reeling after losing three of their last four. The first two were excusable as the games were against top 10 teams, Kansas and Missouri. But a home loss to Kansas State had some questioning Baylor's ability to win physical games.
While Texas is not exactly stout across the front line, the Longhorns do mix it up on the inside. That affected Jones, but it did not affect Acy or point guard Pierre Jackson. Jackson got to the line nine times and made every one. He finished with a career high 22 points.
What the loss means for Texas: The Longhorns are now going to have to pull off an upset in the Big 12 Tournament to get into the NCAA tournament. In all likelihood, Texas will win at Texas Tech and at home against Oklahoma. The Longhorns will be heavy underdogs on the road at Kansas. That means Texas should finish the regular season with a 19-12 overall record and a 9-9 conference record. Given that Texas has just one win over a ranked team it probably won't have the résumé to impress the tournament committee unless it pulls off a win at the Big 12 Tournament.
Up next: Baylor will play host to Oklahoma on Saturday. Texas travels to Texas Tech for a game Saturday.