Johnathan Motley followed up his ordinary first half with an extraordinary finish and No. 11 Baylor dominated the late stages of 71-62 win against No. 10 West Virginia in Waco.
Motley scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half and became the catalyst for a 23-4 run that swung the game after the Mountaineers led by eight.
“We weren’t leaving this place without a win,” Motley said in deference to Baylor’s lone senior Ish Wainwright playing his final home game. “West Virginia’s such an awesome team. They’re so tough. It feels great to get this one because they smacked us in Morgantown.”
West Virginia (23-7, 11-6) threatened to own the sequel as well, leading 49-41 after Jevon Carter’s jumper with 9:04 to play. But on the next possession Motley was fouled on a dunk and converted the three-point play to begin Baylor’s rally.
Carter finished with 18 points, but his reverse-pivot jumper in the lane was the Mountaineers’ lone basket during a nearly 7-minute stretch when the Bears (24-6, 11-6) surged ahead.
Ultimately, a 43-23 rebounding deficit foiled WVU’s hopes of a regular-season sweep, as did 37-percent shooting and massive foul trouble.
West Virginia was whistled for 29 fouls to Baylor’s 19, helping the Bears enjoy a 34-19 edge in free-throw attempts.
“I’ve got to watch what I say,” Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said. “I thought defensively we got really tentative.”
Motley made all 11 of his free throws — the second-most he has attempted in his career — with seven of those during the final 8:40 when Baylor outscored the visitors 30-13.
“Being aggressive, attacking more and making quicker moves,” Motley said. “Coach said to make quicker moves and once I get to the free throw line it will all start coming together.”
In a tightly called game, Bears coach Scott Drew received a first-half technical after a trap led to an apparent steal against Teyvon Myers only to be negated by a foul.
When Baylor trailed 30-28 at the break, Motley had four points on five shots and needed to assert himself by putting pressure on the defense.
“He was tremendous,” Drew said. “I love when he’s making free throws. I love when he’s getting to the free throw line, and that’s something this month of February we haven’t been doing a good job.”
Al Freeman had two 3-pointers down the stretch to finish with 12 points, while center Jo Lual-Acuil contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Tarik Phillip added 12 points for the Mountaineers and Elijah Macon scored 11, regressing to 1-of-5 foul shooting while his teammates sank 14-of-14.
Though the Bears committed 18 turnovers, they were lightyears better than their 29-turnover unraveling in Morgantown, and the progress came without point guard Manu Lecomte, who missed the game with an ankle injury.
West Virginia was absent a starter, too, with Esa Ahmad rehabbing a lower-back strain, and its typical depth advantage never materialized. Baylor led 20-12 in bench scoring as the WVU reserves shot 4-of-18 from the floor.
While Carter’s nine rebounds left him a hair shy of a fourth double-double, they also irked Huggins.
“Our leading rebounder was Jevon Carter, who’s 6-foot 1,” he said. “Wouldn’t it look a little bit better if our 6-foot-9s maybe got a rebound? Elijah gets four. Brandon (Watkins) got one more than Jerry’s statue, and Sags got two. So JC got more rebounds than our three bigs put together. That’s totally unacceptable.”
Actually Carter outrebounded five bigs, with Adrian and Maciej Bender combining for two boards in 33 minutes.
“There’s no excuse for getting outrebounded 43-23,” Huggins said. We’ve had a lot of days where we haven’t shot it very well, but we still got second shots.
“(Baylor) beat us to death on the glass. We’re usually a pretty good rebounding team but they just whipped us pretty good on the glass.”
Adrian a non-factor
Nathan Adrian, who sat the final 13:58 of the opening half after picking up his second foul, finished 1-of-5 for two points and played a season-low 16 minutes.
“Nate really got out of rhythm, and then he gets another foul and we’ve got to get him out of the game again,” Huggins said.
Watching the standings
The Bears drew even with WVU for third place in the Big 12 standings, a half-game back of Iowa State, which hosts Oklahoma State on Tuesday.
The Cyclones visit Morgantown on Friday, where West Virginia can secure the league tournament’s No. 2 seed with a victory.