By Cody Soto
No. 19 Baylor men’s basketball continued its winning ways in the Big 12 by taking its fourth game in a row with a 78-66 win over No. 20 West Virginia on Saturday afternoon at the Ferrell Center.
The Bears (22-7, 10-6) were paced by their strong first half performance, where they shot 65.4 percent from the field, the best half since Baylor’s Big 12 contest against Colorado on Jan. 30, 2007.
The Saturday win also marks the first time in program history that the Bears have won back-to-back game against ranked opponents. The previous win was a 79-70 upset over No. 12 Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, on Wednesday night.
Junior forward Taurean Prince led the Bears with 20 points off the bench, followed by senior forward Royce O’Neale with 18 points on 4-for-6 three-point shooting, junior forward Rico Gathers with 17, and freshman guard Al Freeman with 10 points.
On 24 made shots, the Bears rallied for 18 assists and only committed eight turnovers in the win.
“To have only eight turnovers against [West Virginia], that’s outstanding,” head coach Scott Drew said. “This is unselfish basketball. This is a very good West Virginia team, and we need to keep this thing rolling.”
West Virginia’s Javon Carter had a game-high 25 points where he made seven three-pointers and finished with 50 percent shooting for the Mountaineers. Despite the loss, the Mountaineers outrebounded the Bears 39-31 in the game, including 20 offensive rebounds.
In their 2nd annual blackout game, the Bears opened up the first half on a roll just like they have been doing at home. Back-to-back baskets by freshman forward Johnathan Motley helped push the lead to 13-4 at the 15:00 minute mark, and WVU’s Carter kept the Mountaineers in the game with a three-pointer on the other end.
The Bears continued to suffocate West Virginia’s interior work as Baylor rolled into the locker room with a 45-29 halftime lead in Waco. However, the Bears looked sluggish starting the second half and West Virginia took advantage.
The Mountaineers used offensive rebounds to cut the game to nine points with 10:43 left in the game, but another Baylor run fueled by unselfish passing pushed Baylor’s lead back to double digits with three-point shots by Prince and O’Neale from beyond the arc.
“We’re playing good basketball,” Drew said. “We can only control shot selection, and that’s been very good. The rebounding wasn’t as good, but we were more efficient when we got them.”
Things got messy as both teams got into the bonus early, and a handful of players on both sides of the ball got to the free throw line as the temperature rose at the Ferrell Center. However, the Bears didn’t seem to panic as they used the crowd’s energy and hot shooting late in the game to take their 10th Big 12 game this season.
“We had people who could handle West Virginia’s pressure,” Prince said. “We got great schemes Coach Drew implemented into our fast break offense, and we were able to capitalize off of it.”
Now, the Bears have a quick turnaround in their final week of conference play. Baylor faces in-state rival Texas at 6 p.m. in a Monday matchup at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. The game will air on ESPNU.