WACO, Texas -- Baylor thought finals were over. The Bears (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) got an unexpected test instead.
Curtis Jerrells scored 29 points and Baylor survived a scare from Texas-Arlington, winning 79-76 Saturday night in the first game after a break for finals.
"When you're off for a week, maybe that led to a sluggish start in the first half," coach Scott Drew said. "In the second half, our leadership really paid off. We had a lot of positives."
The Bears (9-1) trailed 41-32 at the break, their first halftime deficit of the season, and never led by more than one point in the first half. Baylor had been off since a 90-63 win over Prairie View A&M on Dec. 13.
Jerrells gave the Bears their first lead of the second half on a drive and spinning layup with 6:12 left. His jumper and another by Kevin Rogers put Baylor up 70-65, completing a 10-0 spurt -- the only sustained run for either team.
Jerrells hit three of four free throws in the final minute, his only miss with 16.9 seconds left. Texas-Arlington rebounded and had a chance to tie, but Anthony Vereen's 3-point attempt bounced off the rim and Baylor's Fred Ellis grabbed the rebound to seal it.
Four of Texas-Arlington's five losses have been by three points or fewer.
"We've had too many moral victories this season," coach Scott Cross said. "This was one of our better-played games. We played a very solid defense."
That defense held Baylor 42 percent shooting, including 35 percent in the first half.
"It was good that they got on us," Jerrells said. "It was a good test. It showed us what our team is about. We've got to be more prepared. We've got to play better in the first half."
Texas-Arlington stretched the lead to 11 on its first field goal of the second half, the biggest lead for either team.
Baylor trailed 49-40 with 15:45 remaining in the game before a jumper in the lane by Jerrells and a 3-pointer from Dugat cut the lead to four. The teams swapped buckets before LaceDarius Dunn's 3 cut the lead to 51-50 with 13:06 to play.
Texas-Arlington led 53-52 before a 3-pointer from Guignard and a 3-pointer and two free throws by Vereen put the Mavericks back up 61-52 with 10:38 remaining.
Dunn, Baylor's leading scorer at 16.9 points per game, was largely ineffective. He picked up three fouls in the first half and played just 20 minutes, eventually fouling out with 3:45 left after scoring nine points.