MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Eron Harris broke out of his mini-slump with a career-best 25 points, but West Virginia couldn’t get him the ball as it sought to tie Baylor in the final seconds.
Instead, the potential tying shot was left to point guard Juwan Staten, who was 0-of-8 from 3-point range this season and just 4-of-34 for his college career. Staten’s 22-footer was deflected with four seconds by 7-footer Isaiah Austin and Baylor escaped with a 65-62 victory Wednesday night.
“Yes, it is frustrating,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, whose team led 34-29 at half and 48-43 with 13 minutes to play. “We had a whole lot of chances. (But) we didn’t get any stops when we needed to get stops and we don’t make shots when we need to make shots.”
Baylor’s comeback victory, which snapped a three-game losing skid, guaranteed WVU can do no better than seventh in the Big 12 standings and cannot avoid playing on the opening day of the league tournament. That means the Mountaineers (13-15, 6-9) must win four games to earn the conference’s automatic bid.
Harris had scored only six points in his previous two games but put up 14 by half against Baylor. He finished 7-of-14 from the floor.
The Mountaineers led 48-43 on Juwan Staten’s jumper with 13:19 to play. But that cushion vanished as WVU managed only one field goal during the next 12:41, until Kevin Noreen’s 3-pointer drew WVU within 63-62 with 1:36 left.
After Baylor (17-11, 8-7) missed twice on its end, Noreen grabbed an offensive rebound off Harris’ missed jumper and WVU reset with 32.9 seconds left. Out of a timeout, Harris missed another 3 from behind a screen, and Baylor’s Pierre Jackson was fouled on the rebound.
Jackson made both foul shots with 17.9 seconds left to put Baylor up 65-62, and WVU’s last possession unraveled with Staten unable to find another shooter before having his 3 blocked by Austin.
Huggins wanted Staten to drive for a quick two-point basket or pitch to one of West Virginia’s 3-point shooters. “Taking a shot you can’t make isn’t helping anything,” the coach said.
Baylor’s Drew said the odds were against WVU on the final possession: “It’s tough when it’s a three-point game and you have to get a 3 and the defense knows what you’re looking for. Isaiah did a good job contesting the shot. It’s tough shooting over that guy.”
Austin led Baylor with 21 points, and Jackson scored 10 of his 15 in the second half.
“Pierre is one of those players who gets his teammates involved first and then he picks up his offense later,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “Sometimes we’d prefer if he would score right from the beginning, but obviously his assist make our offense work.”
Kevin Noreen had nine boards and Deniz Kilicli eight as WVU outrebounded the Bears 42-32.
Baylor led 17-11 after Austin sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 11:12 left in the half, but WVU went on a 19-4 run during a seven-minute stretch. Harris had seven points in the run, including five free throws, three after being fouled attempting a jumper in front of the Baylor bench.
Aaric Murray started for the first time since Jan. 5, but played only five minutes. Jabarie Hinds did not start for only the second time all season and played only six minutes. Each had one turnover and failed to score.
Huggins did not name those two specifically but said he benched “guys who pout.”
After making 6-of-9 from 3-point range against WVU in Waco, Baylor guard Brady Heslip missed repeated wide-open looks in Morgantown. He was 0-of-6 from deep and 1-of-8 overall.
“Maybe he was too open,” Drew said. “That guy doesn’t miss open 3s very often.”
WALTON SETTLES DOWN
A.J. Walton was steamed late in the first half when he was called for fouling Eron Harris on a 3-point attempt in front of the front of the Baylor bench. Walton waved off official Ray Natili and slapped his hands loudly Harris stepped to the line for the first of his three free throws.
On Baylor’s ensuing possession, Walton had a path to the basket only to be called for pushing off against Harris. During the ensuing timeout, Walton plopped down in a seat as his teammates huddled, and he had to Baylor assistant Jerome Tang.
Walton scored eight of his 10 points in the second half, including three layups on backdoor passes from Jackson.