Baylor Blasts West Virginia
Saturday was a battle of a pair of top 15 teams at the Ferrell Center in Waco.
No. 1 Baylor certainly lived up its billing but No. 14 West Virginia definitely did not, as the Bears steamrolled WVU, 70-59.
It was the 22nd straight victory for BU, which equalled the longest winning streak in Big 12 history with Saturday’s triumph. The Bears are 23-1 overall this season and 12-0 in the league.
Meanwhile the Mountaineers fell to 18-7 overall and 6-6 in the Big 12.
West Virginia has now dropped three straight games, which is its first multi-game losing streak of the season.
These last eight days, from the loss at Oklahoma to those against No. 3 Kansas and No. 1 Baylor, are disheartening for the Mountaineers, but WVU’s head coach isn’t ready to throw in the towel with six regular season games remaining on the schedule.
“We’re probably still going to be a top 10 in the NET and a top three seed (for the NCAA Tournament field), but we can’t continue to fall,” stated Bob Huggins on the MSN postgame radio show. “If we go take care of our business, we’re going to OK. The sky hasn’t fallen. It’s looked like it’s going to a couple times, but the sky hasn’t fallen.
“What we can’t do is turnover the ball like we have been and beat people.”
WVU equaled its season-worst in the turnover department with 22 against the Bears. That marked the fourth time this year it’s given the basketball away at least 20 times in a game.
The loss in Waco was particularly tough to swallow because WVU, which is 0-4 all-time in road games against foes rated No. 1, hadn’t been blown out often this season. After being crushed by 12 or more points a dozen times in the disastrous 15-21 season of 2018-19, the Mountaineers had tasted such a lop-sided defeat just once before this year – an 84-68 loss at Kansas State on Jan. 18.
The final margin may have been 11 when the clock struck :00 at the Ferrell Center Saturday, but WVU trailed by as many as 28 points in the second half. It never really threatened after the opening 10 minutes and needed a 13-3 run to close the game to make the final score look more respectable than it actually was.
It was simply an ugly performance for the Mountaineers, and it was that way from the outset.
The visitors committed 11 turnovers in the game’s first 12 minutes and made just three of their 11 field goal attempts during that opening stretch. WVU trailed 22-7 at that point and things would only get worse for the Mountaineers, as Baylor’s Jared Butler kept raining threes from the corner. The sophomore made four of his first five shots from beyond the arc, scoring 16 first-half points in all, and helping the Bears open up a 33-14 lead. Just when things looked darkest for West Virginia, it finished the half on an 8-0 run, cutting Baylor’s advantage to 33-22 at halftime.
That Mountaineers’ momentum didn’t carry over into the second half, though.
BU ran off eight straight points coming out of the break, and West Virginia didn’t score a field goal until the period was nearly half over. WVU was down 53-27 at that juncture.
West Virginia’s Taz Sherman got hot after that, scoring 15 points in a five-minute stretch. The junior guard from Houston finished with his Mountaineer career-high of 20 points, all coming in the second half, as he nailed five-of-nine three-point attempts along the way. The only other WVU player to score in double figures was Oscar Tshiebwe, who had 11 points. The freshman forward also pulled down 12 rebounds, giving him his ninth double-double during his initial season of college basketball.
“They shot it extremely well, and we didn’t,” said Huggins, as West Virginia made 34.5 percent of its field goal tries while Baylor made 51.8 percent. “We turned it over as well, and we can’t continue to turn it over at an alarming rate and hope to beat anybody.”
Three Bears scored in double figures, led by Butler’s 21 points. Freddie Gillespie and Matthew Mayer each added 13. BU also equaled West Virginia in the rebounding department, as both clubs finished with 34.
The Mountaineers will try to bounce back on Tuesday when they entertain Oklahoma State (7 p.m. on ESPN2) at the WVU Coliseum. West Virginia defeated the Cowboys, 55-41, in Stillwater on Jan. 6, which is WVU’s only win in its six Big 12 road games so far this season. The Pokes (13-12/3-9) have been playing much better lately, though. They’ve won three of their last four, including a 73-70 victory over Texas Tech Saturday afternoon at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“We need to win six, starting with Oklahoma State,” said Huggins of WVU’s stretch drives. “It’s a really quick turnaround (to Tuesday’s game), and they are coming off a big win over Texas Tech. We’re not going to quit, though, and we need our fans not to quit on us.”