Baylor’s NCAA Tournament hopes take serious blow in loss at Texas

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Any shot Baylor had at an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament may have just gone out the door.

The Bears dropped a 79-70 decision at Texas (14-16, 6-11 Big 12), with Sheldon McClellan scoring 23 points off the bench on 9-of-15 shooting.

The game was really decided by Texas’ offensive prowess. The Longhorns got huge minutes from McClellan, Myck Kabongo and¬†Ioannis Papapetrou, who combined to hit 22-of-38 shots for 60 points.

That also reveals the biggest problem for Baylor (17-13, 8-9). They failed to stop a team that has essentially been carried by two players this season — one before Kabongo came back — then allowed a third, Papapetrou, to assert himself as a force from the outside. It’s a trend that’s failed to end for Baylor. They’re suspect on defense and when they get down, they seem to stay there. Pierre Jackson fights, but younger guys like Deuce Bello, Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin can’t seem to find any way to regain their confidence.

Austin finished with 15 points on 4-of-14 shooting while Jefferson (seven) and Bello (seven) combined for 14.

The Bears have lost five of their last six games and won only three of their last 11.

Jackson led the Bears with 22 points on 7-of-17 shooting. Brady Heslip, who averages 2.4 three-point makes per game, was held to 0-for-3 from deep for just two points.

After this nose dive, it’d be hard to believe that the Bears have even an outside shot at being on the bubble, much less being on the right side of it. Their best wins are over BYU, Kentucky and Oklahoma State, only one of which was ranked at the time, that being Kentucky, whose NCAA Tournament hopes hang in the balance as well.

It’s a sad thing to see for a team that had so much potential to start the season. If Scott Drew can get Austin, Bello and Jefferson to return, which seems likely, this team could find it’s way back into Big 12 contention next season.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten