Bears escape West Virginia with narrow win, 65-62
By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears went into Morgantown on Wednesday and earned a 65-62 win over West Virginia. It was Baylor’s first-ever trip to Morgantown, and the win snapped its three-game losing streak.
“Road wins are always great,” head coach Scott Drew told ESPN Radio after the game. “Any Big 12 win is obviously nice, especially when you are at this time of year. This time of year every game is so big and so critical. We are really proud of how our team responded.”
Freshman center Isaiah Austin led the Bears with 21 points, six rebounds and two blocks. Senior guard Pierre Jackson contributed 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Senior guard A.J. Walton scored some clutch baskets to give the Bears much-needed momentum down the stretch. Walton finished with 10 points and two rebounds.
With the Bears trailing by one point with 10:08 to play, junior guard Gary Franklin hit a 3-pointer to give the Bears a 50-48 lead.
On the next Baylor possession, Austin stepped out and hit a three to give Baylor consecutive treys on back-to-back possessions. Austin’s three gave the Bears a 53-50 lead.
Jackson gave the Bears a five-point lead by hitting a jumper, and Austin kept the Mountaineers at bay by hitting another jumper.
With 5:06 left in the game, Baylor only led by three points, 58-55, when Jackson was fouled. After struggling with key free throws against Iowa State two games ago, Jackson stepped to the line and drained both shots from the charity stripe. After three more made free throws from Baylor, one from Franklin and two from Austin, Baylor held a 63-59 lead.
West Virginia started to mount a comeback in front of its home crowd when sophomore forward Kevin Noreen sank a 3-pointer to put the Mountaineers within one of Baylor, 63-62. On Baylor’s ensuing possession with 1:17 left, Jackson missed a layup. West Virginia ended up with the ball and a chance to take the lead.
Baylor’s defense stepped up to the challenge and left West Virginia’s offense no choice but to heave a low-percentage 3-pointer. The Mountaineers missed and Jackson grabbed the rebound for Baylor.
West Virginia swiftly fouled Jackson. Jackson once again hit both of his free throws to give Baylor a 65-62 lead. Jackson was perfect on the night from the free throw line, making all six of his attempts. On West Virginia’s final possession, the Mountaineers missed a 3-point attempt and Jackson snared the rebound to ensure Baylor’s 65-62 victory.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit with back-to-back-to-back losses, but this definitely is a confidence booster for us,” Austin told ESPN Radio. “They’re probably one of the strongest teams in the Big 12. They are at home, so they have the home environment tonight, but it was definitely a hard-fought game.”
The win gives the Bears an 8-7 Big 12 record and a 17-11 overall record. Up next for the Bears is a home showdown against No. 13 Kansas State at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Ferrell Center.