Story by Nathan Keil | Sports Editor, Video by Branson Hardcastle | Broadcast Reporter
No. 20 West Virginia raced out to a fast start and put the Bears in an early hole they couldn’t recover from. The Mountaineers led by as many as 28 and survived a second half Baylor rally and a flurry of whistles as they snapped Baylor’s six-game winning streak 71-60 Tuesday night.
West Virginia was whistled for 26 fouls and had one player fouled out, with three others accumulating four fouls. Baylor was whistled for 20 fouls and one Bear was disqualified.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said he remains perplexed about how his team is officiated.
“I’m having a hard time figuring out what it is,” Huggins said about the number of fouls called on his team. “Somehow we need to get a little more universal and consistent if that’s possible.”
Offensively, The Mountaineers placed five in double figures led by senior guard Jevon Carter and junior forward Esa Ahmad, who both finished with 15 points. Sophomore guard James Bolden, senior guard Daxter Miles Jr. and sophomore forward Sagaba Konate all finished with 10 points.
After a layup by senior forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr on a perfectly run offensive set put the Bears in front 2-0 on the first possession of the game, the Mountaineers settled into attack mode.
The Bears were held to just five of 26 from the floor, and did not hit a three-pointer in the first 20 minutes.
West Virginia got back to doing what it does best—speeding up opposing offenses and forcing havoc in the full-court with its press defense and creating turnovers.
The Mountaineers forced 12 first half turnovers and converted them into 16 points. West Virginia held leading scorer senior guard Manu Lecomte scoreless in the first half, as well as holding reigning Big 12 player of the week senior forward Terry Maston, who scored 50 points in his last two games, to just one free throw in the first half.
West Virginia also blocked 13 shots at the rim, including nine from Konate, an x-factor that Baylor head coach Scott Drew said his team couldn’t overcome.
“West Virginia came in and its physicality really bothered us. First half, we turned it over way too much and we missed way too many shots,” Drew said. “Their shot blocker [Konate] really affected the game. We needed to do better job of getting in the pain and then kicking it to open people.”
As effective as the West Virginia defense was in the first 20 minutes, the offense was stellar, too. The Mountaineers shot 54 percent from the floor and were 11 of 17 from inside the three-point arc.
West Virginia used a 13-2 run over a six-minute span to take control at 22-8. The Mountaineers then pushed the lead to 20 at 29-9 following a three-point play by Ahmad.
After Baylor was able to trim the deficit to 15 at 33-18, West Virginia got a 5-0 spurt from Bolden and a thunderous dunk from Carter to carry a 40-18 advantage into the break.
The Mountaineers opened the second half on an 8-2 run, capitalizing off of two threes from Carter at the top of the key.
But Baylor made its run, using a 16-2 run to cut the deficit to 14 at 55-43 following a layup from Maston.
Junior guard Jake Lindsey said the Bears used so much energy getting back in the game that they were unable to take advantage of further opportunities down the stretch.
“When you take a hole like that, you expend a lot of energy to cut that lead,” Lindsey said. “You got to get a little lucky. They might miss a shot or two or fumble a ball, catch a turnover and a fast-break, but we just didn’t convert.”
After Maston’s layup, the game began to spiral, with chippiness and elevated physical play ensuing from both sides. Both Maston and Konate were issued technical fouls.
The result led to a 7-0 run by West Virginia , highlighted by a four-point play from Miles.
Less than two minutes later, Drew was hit with a technical foul for arguing foul calls with the officials. Two more technicals were issued before the final whistle.
After the dust and tempers settled, the Mountaineers regained control, extending their lead back to 19 at 67-48.
Baylor finished the game on a 12-3 run, but by then the Bears had run out of time.
Lual-Acuil led the way for Baylor with 16 points and 10 rebounds. After not scoring in the first 20 minutes, Lecomte got on the board with a floater at the 16:39 mark of the second half and finished with 12, but was just three of 12 from the floor and only hit one of his five three-point attempts.
Baylor (17-11, 7-8) looks to bounce back when it meets rival TCU at 11 a.m. Saturday in Fort Worth. The game will air on ESPN2.