WACO, Texas — In the tense, waning moments of West Virginia’s game at Baylor, Eron Harris wasn’t exactly embracing the power of positive thinking.
“I feel like the worst always happens,” he admitted after the Mountaineers prevailed 66-64, extracting the kind of win they had a habit of blowing the past two seasons. “I got scared.”
Scared with good reason, because the Murphy’s Law paradigm seemed to taking effect: WVU’s eight-point cushion at the 4:55 mark had become a tie game with 36 seconds left.
Even after Juwan Staten’s layup put West Virginia ahead with 2.7 seconds left, there were anxious moments. First, officials restored the clock to 3.1 seconds, and then came an exchange of timeouts as Baylor set up its courtlong desperation play and Bob Huggins staged a defense to counter.
Had the officials put anymore time on the clock, West Virginia might have been shrugging off its toughest loss yet, because Baylor point guard Kenny Chery caught the inbounds pass, raced across halfcourt and launched a 25-foot runner that banked in for could have been the 3-point winner.
Only he launched the shot mere heartbeats too late, which replay clearly showed.
“The buzzer went off before (Chery) let it go, so I wasn’t worried about it,” Harris said. “But it is crazy that he hit it. The fact that hit it is like, ‘Man, are you serious?’ Even though the buzzer went off before he let it go, you didn’t have to let him it!”
DREW: FINAL PLAY WAS OPEN
On the Baylor bench, not far from where Chery fired up the shot that didn’t count, coach Scott Drew wasn’t questioning the clock so much as his team’s execution. The final play—which was designed to get the ball downcourt to 6-foot-9 forward Cory Jefferson near the basket—should have worked.
“If you watch the replay, Cory’s wide-open, but we didn’t execute it,” Drew said. “If you look at the replay, I think we had a dunk.
“Let’s credit West Virginia with pressuring the ball so we couldn’t make the pass, but that play is something we rehearse, something we practice. I sure like my odds with Cory making a dunk.”
With Harris struggling to 2-of-9 shooting from 3-point range and scoring 12 points (six below his average), West Virginia picked up some much-needed offense from junior college transfer Remi Dibo.
After scoring just two baskets in the last three games—and being benched for the entirety of WVU’s win over Texas Tech on Jan. 22—Dibo made 4-of-10 on Tuesday night, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range. His 13 points were the quite a spike from the 4.3 points he had averaged during the Mountaineers’ previous 11 games.
“I’m trying to get more comfortable,” said the 6-foot-7 Frenchman. “I want to hit the shots I didn’t make so far this season, but it’s shots I’ve been making all my career.”
Baylor committed 17 turnovers to just six for West Virginia, and the 18-0 points-off-turnovers margin proved to be the game-changer.
“I think (West Virginia’s) defense was good, but a lot of it was self-inflicted,” said Drew, who watched several kick-out passes sail into the stands.
“We’ve constantly worked on jump-stopping in the lane and not leaving our feet (to make passes). I think we showed about five minutes of clips of jump-stops and dumping off. When you spend a lot of time on something and it doesn’t work, then dang.”
Terry Henderson (4-of-9 for 11 points) wasn’t the lights-out shotmaker he has been at times, but he was far more efficient than his 1-of-10 performance in Saturday’s loss at Oklahoma State. … After four WVU players fouled out in Stillwater, two more were disqualified against Baylor. Brandon Watkins earned his fifth with 9:18 left and Kevin Noreen exited at the 3:23 mark.