MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Across the previous 32 minutes, West Virginia’s Jevon Carter had attempted only five shots and missed them all. Yet in the opposing huddle, facing a tie-game scenario, Baylor coach Scott Drew warned his players that it was “Carter Time.”
Drew’s prophesy played out accordingly.
Carter’s off-balanced 3-pointer in the final minute — a difficult jumper over tight defense from Jake Lindsey — helped No. 2 West Virginia survive a 57-54 dogfight against Baylor in Big 12 action Tuesday night.
“Big players make big plays,” Drew said of Carter, whose pedestrian eight points included five in the final 57 seconds. The All-American candidate added five assists and three steals as the Mountaineers (15-1, 4-0) claimed sole possession of first place in the league.
“I’ll be really happy to see him walk across that stage and graduate,” Drew said.
Lamont West and Daxter Miles had 12 points on a low-scoring night for West Virginia, which shot 31 percent yet extended the nation’s longest active win streak to 15 games.
“We didn’t really come out with a lot of enthusiasm,” West said. “I don’t think we played that good but a win is a win.”
Manu Lecomte scored 13 to lead Baylor (11-5, 1-3) but the point guard missed the front end of a late one-and-one and twice misfired on potential game-tying 3s in the final 27 seconds. One of those misses came at the buzzer, set up by a courtlong pass after Carter made two free throws with 4 seconds left.
Along with grabbing 12 rebounds, Sagaba Konate’s swatted seven shots, the most by a West Virginia player in 14 seasons and two off the school record.
Konate made only 3-of-14 from the floor though his jump-hook over Baylor 7-footer Jo Lual-Acuil snapped a 49-all tie with 3:28 left. It ended a clunky stretch of nine straight misses by West Virginia, which scored only three baskets over the final nine minutes.
Tied at 51-all with 1:36 left, WVU threw the ball away out of a timeout, but Beetle Bolden’s steal thwarted a Baylor fast break. Coach Bob Huggins opted against calling another timeout and watched Carter take the 3-point directly in front of the Mountaineers’ bench
“Our young guys tend to get out of sorts, so JC just took it upon himself to make a play,” Huggins said. And the fact that Carer was 1-of-6 at the time was no deterrent.
“Nobody had any problem with him taking that shot,” Huggins said.
West certainly seemed in favor of it, challenging Carte during the previous timeout.
“I looked at the scorebook and he only had three points, so I said. ‘JC where you at?’ Then he hit the shot and I said, ‘About time.’”
Baylor committed 21 turnovers, mitigating a 44-36 rebounding edge.
Lual-Acuil finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, giving the underdogs a chance in a game that was tied six times and never stretched beyond a four-point margin in the second half.
“We did a good enough job on the glass and defensively to win the game, but we didn’t take care of the ball well enough,” said Drew.
The Mountaineers didn’t take their first lead until 18:59 remained when West’s jumper made it 31-29.
Baylor jumped out 13-4 and never trailed in the first half, though its lead vanished when Beetle Bolden’s 3 from the wing forged a 29-29 tie. That marked a water-treading moment for West Virginia, which was shooting only 30 percent and being out-rebounded.