Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Number ten ranked Baylor men’s basketball faces a tough road test Tuesday in Morgantown, W.Va. against number ten ranked West Virginia.
The Bears (15-0, 3-0) are coming off of back-to-back thrilling home wins against Iowa State and Oklahoma State, earning the program its first ever No. 1 ranking.
Baylor started the season with no votes in the AP poll, motivating them to prove to the national media that they can compete with the best teams. Brussels point guard Manu Lecomte is glad to be at the number one rank but knows the road ahead will not be any easier.
“It’s a great feeling to be ranked number one but again, we’re still the underdog,” Lecomte said. “That’s how we’re going to keep winning, because we’re going to play every game like it’s our last.”
The Mountaineers (13-2, 2-1) suffered a road loss at Texas Tech last week, but bounced back with a double digit win over Texas Christian University.
“The Big 12 is a tough league,” Mountaineers junior guard Daxter Miles, Jr. said. “Every night is going to be a good game. (You’ve) just got to do what you can do to try to get the best outcome.”
Baylor will face a challenge when it goes into the WVU Coliseum. The Mountaineers are undefeated on their home court this season and typically boast one of the loudest environments in the Big 12.
Additionally, West Virginia has one of the most vaunted defenses in the nation. Known by the national media as “Press Virginia,” the Mountaineers force 24.3 turnovers per game, almost five more than the next best team.
The Bears are no slouch on defense either, as they hold opponents to just 58.3 points per game, good for fourth best in the nation.
One of the main reasons for Baylor’s defensive success is their length.
“They’re so long,” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. “That’s the biggest thing. It makes that zone good when you can pretty much touch hands across the floor you’re going to cover some ground and they cover a lot of ground.”
Baylor will look to junior forward Johnathan Motley and Lecomte to lead the offense.
Motley has posted four straight double-doubles and picked up a Big 12 Player of the Week award for his performances last week.
Lecomte, a transfer from Miami, is the team’s second leading scorer and leader in assists putting up 11.8 points and 4.9 assists per contest. Furthermore, he has proven himself as the Bear’s go-to closer, hitting clutch shots throughout the season — including the game winning jumper against Iowa State this past Tuesday.
The Mountaineers are led by their experienced backcourt of Miles, Jr. and Maywood, IL point guard Jevon Carter. Neither lead the team in scoring as that title belongs to Cleveland, OH forward Esa Ahmad. However, the savvy, veteran guards are the best shot-makers on the team with Carter shooting 32% from deep and Miles, Jr. making an impressive 45% of shots from three-point range.
West Virginia was triumphant in both meetings between the two teams last season, winning 80-69 in Morgantown and 69-58 in Waco. Baylor leads the all-time series 7-3, losing only once in Morgantown.
The top ten showdown is at 6 p.m. Tuesday at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va.