WVU erases 12-point fourth-quarter deficit, falls in final seconds to Baylor, 66-65

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Trailing by 12 points with nine minutes to play against Baylor, the WVU women’s basketball team used a furious comeback to take a 65-64 lead with a minute remaining. The Mountaineers, who made just about every clutch play throughout the course of the fourth quarter to take the lead, made one critical error in the final seconds in falling to the Bears, 66-65.

Leading by a point with eight seconds to play and with possession in front of their own bench, West Virginia turned the ball over and Baylor capitalized with a pair of free throws to leave Morgantown with a regular season sweep of the Mountaineers.

Junior guard JJ Quinerly, who accounted for over half of WVU’s scoring in a career-best 33-point effort, lost control of the inbounds pass near the midcourt stripe. Baylor’s Jada Walker collected the steal along the baseline, drove to the hoop and was fouled. Walker was injured on the play and was forced to leave the game.

“I thought Jada made an unbelievable play,” Baylor head coach Nicki Collen said. “I actually feel a little bit bad in some ways except for the fact that, I am not saying we didn’t deserve to win, but Quinerly had such an unbelievable game. For her to foul out on that last play, she was so good tonight.”

“The ball went in the air. I went to catch it. I kind of bobbled it a little bit. Things happen. You never know when certain things are going to happen or when you’re going to make a mistake. They capitalized on it,” Quinerly said.

“We can’t sit here and dwell on it. No matter how mad I want to be right now, We’ve still got stuff to do and we’ve still got games to play.”

“I could have been better. Her teammates could have been better for her. Without her, we wouldn’t even have been in that situation,” said WVU head coach Mark Kellogg. “She probably got a little sped up and was probably trying to take some time off and dribble it around. There’s nothing wrong with that. She tried to make a play to get back in it.”

Collen had to choose a player on the bench to enter the game for the free throws. Collen selected Jana Van Gytenbeek and she drained both shots from the charity stripe to put the Bears up 66-65 with 4.3 seconds remaining.

“Jana doesn’t go to the line a lot. But I just really believed the way she has been playing lately that she could rise to the occasion there,” Collen said.

Without the benefit of a timeout, WVU needed to go the length of the floor for a potential go-ahead shot. Jordan Harrison, who scored 16 points, drove into the lane but had her shot blocked as time expired.

“Get the ball in her hands and get her with some momentum. She is pretty elite and dynamic with the ball in her hands. They were back and they were kind of taking away the paint,” said Kellogg.

“I loved the rally. I loved the fight. Quinerly almost singlehandedly kept us in that thing, her and Jordan. They were about the only two that had anything going offensively.”

While the late-game sequence will be lamented by the Mountaineers, the third quarter proved to be West Virginia’s undoing. The Mountaineers led 28-25 at halftime but they were outscored 25-14 in the third stanza.

“I think our defense just wasn’t that good. Our rotations were slow We weren’t really talking in transition. We were just having some mental breakdowns on defense” Harrison said.

“We have traditionally been pretty good in the third quarter throughout the year. We just didn’t have the right look about us,” Kellogg said.

Walker scored two baskets in the opening minute of the fourth quarter to give the Bears a game-best 12-point lead at 54-42. However, West Virginia chipped away at the deficit. An 11-2 run was capped by a Quinerly triple with a minute to go, putting the Mountaineers up 65-64.

“That’s a read play for her and a feel. She kind of hesitates all the time on that three,” Kellogg said.

“It looked good as soon as it left her hands.”

Harrison and Quinerly combined for 49 of WVU’s 65 points.

A crowd of 5,616 made their way inside a snow-covered WVU Coliseum on a day where 50 years of WVU women’s basketball were celebrated throughout the game.

Five Bears scored in double-digits. They were led by Sarah Andrews’ 14-point effort. Darianna Littlepage-Buggs scored 11 points and Bella Fontelroy, Aijha Blackwell and Van Guytenbeek each scored 10 points.

West Virginia (22-5, 11-5 Big 12) has lost back-to-back games for just the second time this season. They still lead Baylor (21-6, 10-6) by a game for fourth place in the Big 12 and control of the last double-bye spot in the upcoming Big 12 Conference Tournament.

“This one hurts but we don’t really have time to dwell on it too long. We’ll have to regroup. Every time this team has kind of been hit, we have seemed to respond all year,” Kellogg said.

“We have lost to really quality basketball teams. There’s no question. The hurdle for us is to continue to try to beat those teams. We have a couple times. But we would like to have a couple of them back.”

The Mountaineers will play their final regular season road game at Oklahoma State Tuesday before hosting TCU on March 2.

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