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Repeated defensive breakdowns leave Huggins huffy

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The team with the worst statistical defense in the Big 12 lived down to expectations Saturday, and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins wasn’t happy about it.

He watched Baylor shoot 54 percent for the game and pile up 52 second-half points while handing the Mountaineers an 88-75 loss that deflates for the moment any talk of this team being NCAA tournament-worthy.

“The frustrating thing is they scored every time down the floor,” Huggins said. “It has been a steady diet of that.”

After Texas shot 57 percent while also scoring 88 points in West Virginia’s previous game, Huggins’ team entered the day allowing 44-percent shooting on the season—worst in the conference.

Isaiah Austin had eight baskets, including six in the paint, on his way to 19 points. As Baylor took control in the second half, the 7-footer easily caught the ball isolated in the post and turned it into points.

“I’ve always found that the best way for a guy not to score on you is not to let them catch it,” Huggins said. “I didn’t see us in front of them.”

Still, Austin’s output didn’t seem to irk Huggins as much as what the unheralded Royce O’Neale produced. The 6-foot-6 junior poured in a career-high 22 points—16 above his average—by making all eight of his shots, including four at point-blank range and four more on open 3-point looks.

“How about Royce O’Neale,” Huggins said. “He was only 8-for-8. He hasn’t made shots like that all year.”

Baylor enjoyed a 38-12 scoring advantage in the paint and committed only four turnovers as WVU’s defense failed to pressure the ball.

“We’re not ever going to get back to where we are until we guard again,” said Huggins. “How the hell are you going to give up 88 points and think you’re guarding somebody?”

Baylor coach Scott Drew chuckled out loud when asked if he foresaw such a big performance from O’Neale, the University of Denver transfer who had only one double-figure scoring game in his last 19 outings.

“You always see the best in your players, but you know they’re not normally going to go 8-for-8,” Drew said. “Normally we would expect them to go probably 7-for-8.”

O’Neale scored 22 points once in WAC game but hadn’t approached anything so noisy during his debut season in the Big 12. He was only 7-of-21 from 3-point range in his first 13 league games before going 4-for-4 at WVU.

“We were just moving the ball, getting each other touches and open shots,” he said.

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