Bear-Knuckle Win For West Virginia Over Baylor

Another Grinder, Same Result As WVU Bests Baylor

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It was another in what’s become quite the laundry list of wins for No. 2 West Virginia.

The No. 2 Mountaineers hung Baylor out to dry by a 57-54 final on Tuesday despite subpar shooting, a late game swoon in putting the ball in the bucket and a struggle in the paint against a long, lengthy foe. WVU was outrebounded and outshot, had a 22-10 deficit in points in the paint and were beaten in second-chance points – typically the metrics the Mountaineers

But in the effort, hustle and energy departments, the readings were again off the charts. West Virginia poked and prodded the Bears, forcing 21 turnovers and scoring 20 points of such, while finding just enough offense to emerge victorious for a 15th consecutive time.

West Virginia forward Sagaba Konate (50) reacts after being pushed toward the baseline

“Maybe we didn’t shoot the ball well, some turnovers here and there, but the one thing we can control is our effort,” said guard Chase Harler, who had seven points, two assists and two steals in 19 minutes played as a spark plug off the bench. “If we bring a good effort we are always going to be in the game and it showed. That’s something we can control.

“I tried to stay as ready as possible. We are a team that can grind out games. Have to stay ready. Everyone contributes. Some night’s it’s Teddy (Allen) with 20. He struggled and so I brought as much energy as I could.”

That helped lift the entire team, and get it past a difficult shooting stretch in which it missed nine straight shots and 10 of 11 before Carter buried a huge three-pointer from the right wing to give WVU a 54-51 lead with 56 seconds left. It was a dagger into the heart of an upset effort by Baylor, which looked to upend the Mountaineers in the same fashion in which West Virginia knocked off BU at this time last season when it reached the nation’s No. 1 ranking.

But Carter’s shot combined with three free throws over the final 16 seconds and a miss at the buzzer by sharpshooting guard Manu Lecomte was enough to stave off a hungry Baylor (11-5, 1-3) team that did almost everything it needed to besides limiting turnovers and making quite enough shots.

“We did a great job guarding them; they did a great job guarding us,” said Carter, who had eight points and five assist to go with three steals. “That was how the game was. (My shot) was just the shot that went in. I’m the point guard, so I always want the ball in my hand to start the offense. I came off the ball screen, had a little bit of space and knocked it in.”

And knocked the bottom out of Baylor’s hearts. It was a key win for West Virginia (15-1, 4-0 Big 12), which maintains momentum going into a stretch in which it plays four Top 20 teams in the next five games. The victory also keeps the Mountaineers unblemished in a conference in which every other team has a loss now thanks to No. 9 Oklahoma’s 75-65 win over No. 8 Texas Tech.

“That’s how we play the whole 40,” Carter said of the latest case of grit and determination. “We came up big and did what we were supposed to do. They are a very good team. Long, athletic, got that big shot blocker down there.”

But the performance – a rather pedestrian one when compared to the defeat of Oklahoma last weekend – begs the question: Did the top two Mountaineers truly perform like a highly-rated team, as head coach Bob Huggins hoped it would after the being tagged with its highest rank since 1959?

“Nah, not tonight,” Carter said. “We did enough to get the win, but we have to get better. Close game that we came out on top, that’s all.”