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Durant leads Texas back from big deficit to edge Baylor

Mar 10, 2007 - 9:00 AM OKLAHOMA CITY (Ticker) -- Not even a miserable first half can stop the maturation of Texas' freshman sensation Kevin Durant.

Durant overcame some uncharacteristic struggles in the opening 20 minutes to finish with 29 points and 13 rebounds as the No. 14 Longhorns recorded the biggest comeback in Big 12 Conference tournament history with a 74-69 victory over Baylor.

With the quarterfinal win, Texas (23-8) moved on to face seventh-seeded Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Cowboys upset No. 2 seed Texas A&M, 57-56, earlier Friday.

"Again, I said a week ago, I thought that Oklahoma State, even with adversity they have had to go through, they could have closed out the season with three wins," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "I thought they deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament because of their resume start to finish."

After mustering just five points on 1-of-13 shooting in the first half, Durant and the Longhorns found themselves trailing the 11th-seeded Bears, 43-25, at the break.

"I don't know what word you want to use," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "My words were you (Durant) weren't very good. I look down and I said, you are 0-of-11. Half of them were not very good shots. He just wasn't very good. I don't know if it was tentative or whatever."

That deficit grew in the second half, as a layup by Kevin Rogers put Baylor (15-16) ahead 48-28 with 17:05 remaining.

"We started out well, very pleased with how we came out and the intensity we had and then give Texas a lot of credit," Baylor coach Scott Drew said.

While that hole might appear too large for most players, the unflappable Durant beared down, scoring the game's next five points. The 6-9 swingman later netted eight straight points for Texas with two 3-pointers and a pair of free throws, slicing the deficit to 56-46 with 11:56 to play.

"Coach just told me to keep being aggressive and chip away at the lead," Durant said. "My guys did a great job of encouraging me after the half time and keep shooting it. Once we came out we had a lot of energy and kept chipping away at the lead."

Despite finishing just 2-of-7 on 3-pointers, Durant was fouled taking one with 8:23 left and made all three attempts from the stripe to cut the Bears' lead to 62-59.

"We all saw what Durant did in the second half," Drew said. "We tried three different guys, four different guys on him - three different guys on him. And Texas deserved the game. Give them all the credit."

Although he is the main scoring option for the Longhorns, Durant got some help from seldomly-used Craig Winder, who finished with eight points - his highest scoring output since November 9.

The senior guard knotted the score at 65-65 on a fast-break layup with 3:09 remaining and gave Texas its first lead since 2-0 just 53 seconds into the contest when he completed a follow shot off a miss by Durant, making it 67-66 with 1:56 to play.

"Just trying to help out (my teammates) and playing with a lot of energy," said Winder, who had just seven combined points in his previous nine games. "The buckets came from energy points, hitting the glass and things like that."

Looking for its first win in three games with Texas this season, Baylor stayed within 70-69 after Curtis Jerrells sank three free throws with 46 seconds left, but Longhorns freshman D.J. Augustin hit a baseline runner with 17 ticks to go and added two free throws down the stretch.

A.J. Abrams scored 16 points for Texas, which shot 53 percent (16-of-30) after the break to engineer the rally.

Jerrells had 19 points and Mamadou Diene added 14 and 12 boards before fouling out with 52 seconds left for the Bears.