West Virginia’s winless season on the road took a bizarre turn Saturday.
After nearly doing many things right for 37 minutes, the Mountaineers did everything wrong in the final three, when Baylor ended the game on a 16-5 run to pull out an 82-75 victory at the Ferrell Center.
The loss handed West Virginia its second five-game losing streak this season.
This one won’t easily be tucked away, at least not for West Virginia forward Andrew Gordon, who had his best game and then one of his worst moments on the same day.
As for the good: Tthe 6-foot-9 forward scored a career-high 13 points and added four rebounds. The 40-percent foul shooter also sank four crucial free throws that helped the Mountaineers lead 70-66 with 3:07 remaining.
An open 3-pointer from Mario Kegler — who scored a career-high 23 to lead the Bears (18-9, 9-5 Big 12) — and a quick 5-0 run by Baylor forced West Virginia coach Bob Huggins to call a timeout with 2:01 left.
Out of that timeout came a rare occurrence: WVU had six players — Lamont West, Jordan McCabe, Jermaine Haley, Derek Culver, Chase Harler and Gordon — who began the possession. After a few passes, an official spotted the extra man and charged WVU with a technical.
“I don’t know how many times you’re supposed to tell people they’re out of the game,” Huggins said, referring to Gordon, who tried to get off the court after the play started. “I think somebody called him back on. Then, the official is walking off with him, but then the other guy calls a technical foul. I don’t know. We can’t make those kinds of mistakes.”
It was a mistake that led to several more.
Devonte Bandoo, who added 22 points for the Bears, connected on one of the two technical free throws to give Baylor a 72-70 lead, but then it all came unraveled.
“Devonte didn’t have a full summer here, kind of got off to a slower start early in the year and didn’t shoot well,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Now you’re really seeing what he’s capable of shooting-wise. When you’re stretching the defense like that, it really helps.”
West’s team-high 16 points came on 4-of-14 shooting overall and 2-of-9 from deep. With a chance to tie, the WVU junior missed from in close on a shot that hit the bottom of the rim.
“I thought the key was Lamont tried to score through contact and didn’t get a call and it didn’t go in,” Huggins said. “That kind of set us back.”
Jared Butler drove the lane against Harler and picked up an and-one three-point play for a 75-70 lead. Then Culver’s frustrating day came to an end when he was called for an offensive foul trying to power past Baylor’s undersized 6-5 forward Mark Vital, who was indeed vital by finishing with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Baylor shot 3-of-4 from the field and was 9-of-11 from the foul line over the final three minutes. WVU didn’t answer. A Trey Doomes’ basket with 52 seconds remaining and a banked-in 3-pointer by Haley with 10.2 seconds left was the only offense the Mountaineers (10-17, 2-12) produced late.
“We missed some shots. It wasn’t like we didn’t have shots,” Huggins said. “We didn’t execute very well. They were changing defenses and we’ve got young guys and some new guys out there.”
WVU freshman guard Brandon Knapper didn’t make the trip after being injured during practice when forward Logan Routt fell on his neck, Huggins said. Knapper had started four games this season and averages 5.5 points, but could be out for a while.
“He can’t turn his neck,” Huggins said. “You have to be able to turn your neck to play this game.”
With injuries and dismissals, the Mountaineers were left with eight scholarship players — four of them true freshmen.
“I thought our effort was OK,” Huggins said. “It’s hard when you have guys and then you don’t have guys. These guys have been through a lot.”
Especially on the road, where West Virginia fell to 0-8 this season.
McCabe and Haley were a big reason the Mountaineers had a chance to win its first road game. They combined for 27 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists and just one turnover.
But Harler missed all three of his shots and Culver struggled before fouling out with nine points and six rebounds. West Virginia made 23-of-34 free throws in a game where both teams combined for 51 fouls.
“We’ve got to keep guys in front and we have to team guard,” McCabe said. “If one guy can’t help off, because of their really good 3-point shooters in the corner, then we need help from our big and rotate. Defense in the halfcourt, sometimes we get the one rotation, but very rarely do we get the second rotation.”