MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Looking toward the bench and tugging at his jersey, this was a first for West Virginia guard Chase Harler.
“I was tired,” the sophomore said. “I had to sub myself out for the first time in my career.”
Harler’s 19 minutes of action in a 57-54 win over Baylor were his most ever in a Big 12 game, matching the combined playing time from his previous three outings.
The Wheeling Central graduate finished with seven points, three rebounds and two assists — and one sparkling burst of second-half effort that brought the sellout crowd to a roar.
Diving along the sideline to save a ball from trickling out of bounds, Harler’s hustle fueled a transition sequence that led to Beetle Bolden’s 3-point shot and a 46-42 lead
“I’ve always been a hustle player and prided myself on diving for balls,” he said. “But it’s a lot cooler to do it in front of 13,000 or 14,000 people instead of being in an AAU gym where no one claps.
“It’s corny to say, but when the crowd starts cheering like that it really gets the adrenaline going.”
Given the hectic pace at which “Press Virginia” excels, players frequently sub themselves out when they’re winded. But Harler, at the back end of the rotation, typically hasn’t been on the floor for long enough stretches to get tired. That changed Tuesday when the Mountaineers were mostly firing blanks against Baylor’s zone.
“The past few games, other guys were playing well and I just couldn’t find my way into the game,” he said. “But I think I’m mature enough to understand that my time’s coming, like tonight.”
Nearly a Baylor miracle
Trailing by three and needing to go the length of the court in the final 4 seconds, Baylor coach Scott Drew turned to a version of the famous play his brother Bryce converted in the 1998 NCAA tournament.
It nearly worked this time too, with Jo Lual-Acuil catching a 75-foot heave before flicking a pass to Manu Lecomte on the wing. Lecomte’s open look was too long, capping a 3-of-11 shooting night.
“All you want to do is give yourself a look,” Drew said. “We’ll live and die with Manu shooting that shot, and he’ll make it more than he misses it.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins — who lauded the play design by Drew and joked, “I’m just glad his brother didn’t shoot it” — preferred to trust his defense rather than give the intentional foul.
“I’d rather do that than foul them and take the chance that they go make two free throws and we have to go to the line again,” Huggins said. “What do you gain? We’re up three, so the worst you can do is tie.”
A relieved Lamont West considered Lecomte’s miss a blessing as the Mountaineers celebrated a 15-game win streak.
“For real, he just missed the shot, because he had a good luck,” West said. “Fortunate for us.”
Notes, numbers, etc.
WVU reserve forward Teddy Allen, averaging 19 points over the previous three wins, shot 0-for-3 and played only five minutes while picking up four fouls. … The Bears dropped to 0-17 all-time against teams ranked No. 1 or No. 2, and they fell to 0-26 on the road vs. AP top 5 opponents. … West Virginia’s 19 field goals marked a season-low and tied for the second-fewest in a win during Huggins’ 11-year tenure.
“Neither team shot the ball well and when that happens it’s an ugly game. Both teams are capable of scoring the ball but I thought both teams just had bad games.” — Bob Huggins after WVU shot 31 percent and Baylor made only 36 percent.
Around the Big 12
No. 9 Oklahoma 75, No. 8 Texas Tech 65: In Norman, Trae Young scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half and dished out nine assists for the Sooners (13-2, 3-1). It marked the first league loss for Texas Tech (14-2, 3-1), which hosts West Virginia on Saturday.
No. 12 Kansas 83, Iowa State 78: In Lawrence, Malik Newman scored 27 points, Svi Mykhailiuk added 23 and the Jayhawks (13-3, 3-1) survived avoided a second straight home loss. Lindell Wigginton’s 27 points sparked the upset hopes of Iowa State (9-6, 0-4), which had the game tied in the final 4 minutes.