KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jevon Carter’s pump-fake 3-pointer from 25 feet jumpstarted West Virginia, but that distance was nothing compared to his three-quarters court heave before halftime.
Once Carter’s bombs opened the lid, Daxter Miles kept them coming in the second half. Joined by Esa Ahmad, the trio combined for 58 points as the Mountaineers buried Baylor 78-65 in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals on Thursday night.
“We had to figure out that long zone,” Miles said. “Baylor has got some long guys.”
On a long day for underdogs, West Virginia (23-9) completed a sweep for the league’s top four seeds, setting up a Friday night semifinal matchup versus Texas Tech. Kansas faces Kansas State in the other game.
Miles finished with 19 points, all but two in the second half when he sank 5-of-5 from 3-point range. Carter made a massive impact by producing 18 points, 11 assists and six steals.
Complementing their perimeter play, Ahmad finished with 21 points and eight rebounds as West Virginia beat the Bears for the third time this season.
“Esa gives us another threat,” said Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins. “When we struggled a little bit against the zone to start with, he was the guy we were really trying to throw the ball to.”
Riddled by a season-worst 22 turnovers, Baylor (18-14) missed an opportunity to fortify an NCAA bid. Ultimately, the best news for the Bears might have surfaced earlier Thursday on the same floor, when fellow bubble team Oklahoma State lost to Kansas.
“There are certain teams we match up better with, and West Virginia is not one of them,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
West Virginia led 37-31 on the glass, only the eighth time this season the Bears have been out-rebounded.
Manu Lecomte scored 18 of his 27 points in the final 6 minutes, and Terry Maston added 11 for Baylor, which trailed by double digits for most of the second half. The margin swelled to 19 when Miles canned two free throws to make it 61-42.
After waiting all day to play the last of the quarterfinal games, West Virginia waited even longer to get going. It trailed 18-9 with under 9 minutes left in the half, a stretch that featured 4-of-18 shooting, with one of those made baskets coming on an accidental tip-in by Baylor’s Terry Maston.
Clumsiness reigned. Wes Harris fell in the lane and was called for traveling. Sagaba Konate dropped to one knee while throwing up a hopeless shot that was swatted down. Lamont West sized up a corner jumper that overshot the rim by a foot.
But the mood swung when Carter side-stepped a defender to drain a 3 as the shot clock expired. Suddenly West Virginia surged on a 20-5 run in which Baylor went more than 8 minutes without a basket.
Carter punctuated the turnaround with a highlight heave. Taking an inbounds pass from Miles with 2.7 seconds left, he dribbled twice and launched a 60 footer that sent the Mountaineers into the half ahead 29-23.
“I guess that 3-pointer just killed them,” Carter said. “That’s a big momentum changer.”
“Do I get an assist for that?” Miles joked.
Nope, but backup center Logan Routt provided unofficial assists by setting screens on Baylor’s big men, preventing 7-footer Jo Lual-Acuil and his incredible wingspan from ranging side-to-side.
“I just tried to take him out of the picture, put a body on him,” Routt said. “It opened up some of the guys. I’m more worried about getting someone else a shot.”
Routt’s solid play compensated for Sagaba Konate’s quiet night. Limited to 18 minutes by foul trouble, Konate scored two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
His rim-protecting defense didn’t seem necessary with Press Virginia forcing a flurry of turnovers. This sparked familiar panic for Baylor, which committed 57 of them in three games against the Mountaineers.
“All of a sudden, our turnovers allowed them to not have to face our defense,” Drew said. “If we could go back and start the game right there from the 8-minute mark when we’re up 18-9 and play it again, I would love to do it. I don’t think Coach Huggins will, though.”