Nathan Keil | Sports Writer
Baylor became the number ranked team in the country for the first time in program history on Monday. Tuesday night, it found out just how difficult it is to play with that target on its back.
Baylor trailed from the opening tip and yielded under the Mountaineers’ full court press Wednesday, as the Bears fell 89-68 on the road in Morgantown, W.Va.
Sophomore guard Jake Lindsay said the failure to break the press was a team effort.
“Top to bottom, we didn’t do a good job handling the press with our head up,” Lindsay said. “You’ve got to punish the press. You’ve got to go at them. You can’t let them press you relentlessly without making them pay for it, or else it wears you down.”
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins prides himself on his team’s ability to wreak havoc with the full court press. The Mountaineers turn their opponents over an average of 25 per game. Baylor fell trap to this pressure early and often, committing a season-high 29 turnovers. West Virginia was able to convert those turnovers in 29 points.
Baylor basketball head coach Scott Drew knew how good the press was but didn’t foresee how it completely changed the outset of the game.
“This is definitely the best pressing team Coach [Bob] Huggins has had,” Drew said. “If you would have said before the game that you’re going to have 29 turnovers, I wouldn’t have believed you, even knowing how good their pressure is. They just took us out of everything. They make you feel uneasy and uncomfortable.”
Baylor was held well below its average scoring output of 76 points, including junior forward Jonathan Motley and junior guard Manu Lecomte. Motley was held to eight points on three of ten shooting, seven points below his average and Lecomte was held to seven, nearly five points below his average.
The Bears did manage to place three in double figures scoring. Junior forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while junior guard Al Freeman and junior forward Terry Maston also chipped in with 10 points apiece.
After trailing by seven at intermission and thirteen early in the second half, the closest Baylor was able to get was nine points before the Mountaineers put the game out of reach, leading by 26 points at several times in the half.
Regardless of what the scoreboard read, the Mountaineers were relentless with their high octane pressure.
“They just kept coming,” Maston said. “We were down two, they were pressing. We were down almost 30, and they were still pressing. They were just relentless.”
West Virginia connected on nine of twenty three-point attempts. The Mountaineers were led by senior forward Nathan Adrian, who scored 22 points. Junior guard Jevon Carter added 17, senior forward Brandon Watkins and senior guard Tarik Phillip chipped in with 11.
Baylor drops to 15-1, 3-1 in the Big 12. The difficult road slate for the Bears continues when they travel to Kansas State on Sunday to take on the the 25th ranked Wildcats. Tipoff is set for 3:30p.m. central time and the game will air on ESPNU.