Number Four Hits Big Four For WVU
A funny thing happened to West Virginia as it looked as though it was in the process of blowing yet another second half lead Tuesday night in Waco, Texas.
Daxter Miles Jr. hit a tough, game-changing 4-point play.
The Mountaineers had seen a 28-point lead cut to 12 with still 6:54 left and visions of another disaster going through the minds of every WVU fan when Esa Ahmad tossed the ball from deep in the corner out to Miles.
The shot clock was about to turn to zero when Miles let loose, the ball going through for his only 3 of the night as he was fouled. He would make the free throw and WVU would take it from there to build the lead back up to 19 and then cruise to a 71-60 victory.
“They had some momentum going,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “Dax has made some big shots for us.”
Not many were bigger than that one, for the lead was evaporating rapidly.
“I don’t know why we can’t keep the pedal down,” Huggins said. “We dribble it and fall down. It’s a catastrophe.”
The win was the Mountaineers’ 20th of the season against eight losses and gave them a 9-6 Big 12 record, keeping them mathematically alive in the race.
Sagaba Konate was dominant throughout, just missing a triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and a career high 9 blocks. The blocks tied D’or Fischer’s school record set against Rhode Island in 2004.
“Sags said he was counting and he had 10,” Huggins said.
Esa Ahmad tied Carter for scoring honors with 15.
“That was the best he’s been since his first game back against Texas Tech,” Huggins said.
The only disappointment of the evening was Jevon Carter recording only two assists in the game when he needed three to become the first Power 5 player in NCAA history to accumulate 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals in a career.
The pressing question as play started was how WVU would react on the road, playing a team that had won five in a row, to the devastating loss at Kansas on Saturday.
“It’s seems like we’ve been been gone (from home) a year already,” Huggins said before the game. “You’ve got to move on. It’s hard, but you’ve got to move on.”
That was the message he had for the team when they held a team gathering to regroup.
“My message was don’t turn one loss into two,” the veteran coach said.
They took him at his word. Turning up the defensive pressure and actually getting to the free throw line for seven shots in the first half after shooting only two to Kansas’ 35 last time out, WVU rushed to a 40-18 lead.
Esa Ahmad and Beetle Bolden combined to out-score Baylor in the first half, each with 10 points, but this had little to do with offense for WVU.
The pressure was turned up and Baylor couldn’t stand the heat. The Bears made only five first half field goals, shot only 19.2 percent.
Meanwhile, WVU was forcing 12 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, blocking seven shots, five of them by Konate.
And while Baylor couldn’t get the ball in the hoop, WVU was shooting 53.6 percent as the second half got underway.
If there was any negative, it was that the Mountaineers, the top offensive rebounding team in the conference, had only one offensive rebound in the half.
WVU got a 3 from Carter early in the second half to bring the lead to 28 points and everything seemed fine, except it never is with this WVU team as Baylor came roaring back.
The Bears put together a 17-2 run over 7 minutes and 3 seconds and everyone had visions of another lead blown.
But when things looked darkest, that’s when the senior Miles came up with the play of the game, maybe the play of the year for WVU.
The ball was down low with time running off the shot clock when Ahmad tossed back out to Miles, who elevated and let loose just before the shot clock buzzer went off, the ball going through and Miles drawing a foul.
He added a free throw and the lead was 33.3 percent more at 16 points and the air was just sucked out of Baylor’s arena.
Apparently, the officiating team felt it hadn’t gotten enough TV time, so they went to work and called a pair of double technicals, plus one on Baylor coach Scott Drew, seemingly most of them over nothing and now the game became a whistle-fest.