Ahmad emerges as multi-faceted ‘weapon’


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — From a thunderous baseline dunk to those gap-exploiting midrange jumpers, Esa Ahmad’s 21-point night originated from various angles.

During a 78-65 victory over Baylor, his rebounding fervor also turned heads, and those three steals highlighted a player making strides on defense.

“Esa Ahmad was tremendous tonight, but when he first came back I thought it took time for him to get acclimated. He was a looked a little heavy, a little slow,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Right now he’s playing like he was last year and because of that, I think their team is better now than they were in the beginning of the year, because he’s such a weapon for them, really knows how to operate their defense.”

Plus-24 with Routt on the floor

Reserve Logan Routt gave West Virginia 17 reliable minutes to mitigate the ineffectiveness of Sagaba Konate.

When the former walk-on dunked his only shot attempt and promptly drew a charge on the ensuing possession, he twice slammed the floor in a rare euphoric outburst. His coaches were euphoric over WVU being plus-24 in scoring with Routt on the floor.

Dax Miles attributed making five 3-pointers to Routt’s pin-down screens on the interior: “I give credit to Logan Routt, because he kept hitting the bigs and that’s how we kept getting open.”

The 6-foot-11 sophomore from Cameron High had been averaging 7 minutes per game.

“Most of the time Sags will have a big night, so I’Il get in every now and again and just do what I can do,” Routt said. “Tonight I feel like I was able to get in and get a rhythm because I was playing some more minutes.”

Baylor’s bubble

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi dropped the Bears out of his projected NCAA tournament field following the quarterfinal loss, promising high drama on Selection Sunday.

“We are playing the No. 1 RPI conference in the country, and we were the 6-seed,” Drew said. “Ten of our losses were to ranked teams most in the nation. Zero losses in quadrant 3 or 4, so we don’t have any bad losses, and we’re the fifth-best team according to KenPom on the Big 12, and it’s a great conference, a great league.”

In the timeless March tradition of coaches propping up teams from within their own league, Huggins lobbied for Big 12 bubble-sitters like Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma.

“Why are they on the bubble? I don’t understand why we would have four on the bubble,” he said. “We have been — all year long — the best conference in the country.

“We play everybody twice. This league has great coaching — not good, but great coaching — and we’ve got really good players. So I don’t understand that. You put any of those other people in here that are so-called ‘bubble teams’ and see what they do playing 18 games in this league.”


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