MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia hoped for the season sweep Saturday afternoon against Baylor, but wound up falling flat against an NCAA bubble team. The 88-75 loss drops WVU (15-12, 7-7) out of the at-large conversation for now and gives Baylor (18-9, 6-8) reason for encouragement.
Check out Allan Taylor’s recap of in-game updates from the WVU Coliseum:
BAYLOR 88, WEST VIRGINIA 75 (Final)
The Mountaineers suffer through one of their worst halves of the season as Baylor dominates the final 20 minutes. O’Neale finishes with 22, Austin adds 19 and Jefferson chips in 15 for the Bears. … West Virginia wastes a monster 32-point game from Harris (one off his career-best). Staten finishes with 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting, but the Mountaineers are outscored 52-33 in the second half.
BAYLOR 76, WEST VIRGINIA 68 (3:26 second half)
The Bears are brutalizing WVU’s man defense by isolating Austin down low against Remi Dibo. That’s a gimme every time, especially with no help defense coming. Perhaps the threat of Jefferson making a 3 is bothersome, but not as bothersome as Austin getting to the rim at will because no double-team is coming.
BAYLOR 70, WEST VIRGINIA 65 (5:28 second half)
Who is Royce O’Neale and why isn’t he in the League? OK, so maybe it’s easy to hit 3-pointers when there’s no defender within a kilometer, but still, he’s made all four from deep. He’s at a season-high 18 and counting. … Meanwhile, Harris finally “missed” a 3 when he forced one in traffic and had it deflected.
BAYLOR 67, WEST VIRGINIA 65 (7:04 second half)
After Heslip’s 3 stakes Baylor to a 67-59 lead and puts WVU in threat-level midnight mode, Harris bangs home back-to-back 3s to bring the Coliseum alive. He’s got 30 points on, wait for it, 6-of-6 shooting from 3-point range.
BAYLOR 59, WEST VIRGINIA 58 (9:59 second half)
The Bears put together a 7-0 run, including another 3 by O’Neal, to go up 59-54. Staten counters with a midrange jumper and two free throws to stop the spurt. Still, WVU is shooting only 28 percent in the second half.
WEST VIRGINIA 45, BAYLOR 44 (16:24 second half)
Huggins has to use a timeout only 24 seconds shy of the regularly scheduled media break, because Austin has a dunk and a layup early in the second half. … Austin continues to be a menace on the defensive end with six blocks, many of them against Devin Williams, who’ll likely be pump-faking in therapy for weeks.
WEST VIRGINIA 42, BAYLOR 36 (halftime)
Baylor shoots 57 percent and has 16 baskets to West Virginia’s 13, yet trails at the break. How does that happen? Well, because West Virginia leads 14-12 in rebounds, committed only one turnover in the half and made 6-of-8 from 3-point range. … Harris leads WVU with 15 points, while Staten has eight points and three assists. Adrian has six points, including a 3 just 21 seconds before the half. … Royce O’Neal has nine points, putting him in position to best the season-high 13 he scored against Dayton on Nov. 26. He has reached double figures only once in Baylor’s last 19 games.
WEST VIRGINIA 36, BAYLOR 33 (3:18 first half)
Bears 7-footer Isaiah Austin has eight points and three blocks. He and Cory Jefferson have combined for 12 shots so far—the same total they had in the entire first meeting. … Meanwhile Harris is launching bombs. He has 15 points, including 3-of-3 from deep.
WEST VIRGINIA 26, BAYLOR 22 (6:53 first half)
Gary Browne and Juwan Staten are getting into the lane—they’ve combined for 10 points so far, while Harris has seven. Both teams are avoiding foul trouble: WVU has committed three and Baylor four. The rebounds are deadlocked at nine.
WEST VIRGINIA 21, BAYLOR 20 (9:19 first half)
Bob Huggins takes a 30-second timeout and lights into Adrian for giving up a putback to Baylor’s Royce O’Neal. On the ensuing possession, Gathers beats the WVU defense downcourt for a dunk. Adrian exits and Kevin Noreen re-enters.
WEST VIRGINIA 19, BAYLOR 14 (11:16 first half)
WVU is shooting 54 percent, including an easy lay-in by Devin Williams after Rico Gathers flopped and essentially provided an open path to the basket. (Funny to see a 270-pounder lurch backward as he though he were shot in an action movie. But seriously, the way Williams struggles to elevate over interior defenders, Gathers should hold his ground in those situations.)
WEST VIRGINIA 10, BAYLOR 9 (14:25 first half)
Harris and Nathan Adrian hit early 3s for the Mountaineers, while Heslip makes one for Baylor, which is wearing its black-and-Oregon unis today. (Geez, Heslip always tends to make shots against WVU.) Baylor point guard Kenny Chery—the subject of mech pregame clamor about his improved play—also has a couple early baskets.
West Virginia enters the game with only eight healthy scholarship players because … Terry Henderson, who was missing from pregame warmups, has been ruled out by WVU coach Bob Huggins because of illness. The sophomore guard scored 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting during the Mountaineers’ 66-64 win in Waco on Jan. 28, and remember he has been far more productive at home—averaging 19 points in his last four games.
Henderson’s absence stresses WVU’s short bench even further, not a good sign considering Baylor has nine players average 11-plus minutes. Baylor’s bench has out-scored opposing benches in 21 of 26 games this season. … Two Baylor players could reach 1,000 career points today: sharpshooter Brady Heslip needs seven points and Cory Jefferson stands 19 shy.
Eron Harris said he didn’t watch Baylor’s crazy end-of-regulation finish against Oklahoma State this week. “Nope, I was too busy working on my game,” he said. Baylor overcame a late-game meltdown to win the game in OT, not that Harris cares, of course. … Harris has a way of tip-toeing the confident/cocky line, which he did Thursday in assessing the rematch against Baylor. “We’ve already played this team, we’ve beat this team, so why can’t we beat them again? And we’re at home.”