By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer, Video by Nate Smith | Broadcast Reporter
No. 1 Baylor men’s basketball dominated No. 14 West Virginia Saturday to the tune of 70-59, though the Bears led by as many as 21 points with 3:15 left in the game. Sophomore guard Jared Butler shined as the game’s leading scorer with 21 points on 8-11 shooting.
Baylor came out raucous to open the first half, gaining a 10-point lead just eight minutes into the contest. The Bears drove the lead up to 19 with 3:41 left before the break thanks to hot shooting from Butler and redshirt sophomore guard Davion Mitchell. The two combined for 25 of the team’s 33 first-half points, while the defense incinerated West Virginia’s offense, holding the Mountaineers to just 22 points at the half.
Out of intermission, the Bears went gangbusters again with 12 of the first 14 points, and they built the lead all the way up to 28. With redshirt junior guard MaCio Teague out with a wrist injury, senior guard Devonte Bandoo and sophomore guard Matthew Mayer stepped up, scoring eight and nine points after the break, respectively. Head coach Scott Drew said postgame that the coaching staff has trust in whoever they put out on the court.
“We expect them to do their job, and why we’re such a good team is every day in practice we’re so competitive,” Drew said. “Iron sharpens iron, so we have faith and confidence in whoever we put out there in how they’re going to play.”
Mitchell (16) and Mayer (13) followed Butler for the Bears in points scored, and Mitchell led the game with nine assists, two more than the entire Mountaineer squad. Baylor also racked up steals throughout the afternoon. Junior forward Mark Vital and redshirt senior Freddie Gillespie picked up three, and Butler and Mitchell each had two.
Junior forward Tristan Clark played his third-most minutes of Big 12 play in the win. While he still isn’t back to full strength in scoring (two points on 1-3 shooting, Clark did fill up other areas of the box score with six rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Drew said the forward’s work in the gym is starting to pay off in the last few weeks of the regular season.
“Tristan really worked hard the last couple days,” Drew said. “Again, everything’s baby steps, but I thought he was really determined. He knew it was going to be a tough game, a physical game, and it’s easy to get up when you’re playing against such great players.”
With Saturday’s win, the Bears tie the Big 12 win streak record at 22-straight. After the game, Butler said the team’s success is a “blessing.”
“I say this all the time. It’s just God’s work in our program,” Butler said. “We’ve got a great group of guys, and I think the sky’s the limit for us. We just try to win the next game, go 1-0.”
Baylor (23-1) will head out on the road for a matchup with Oklahoma at 8 p.m. on Tuesday in Norman, Okla. The Bears eeked out a 61-57 game against the Sooners at home in January and will get the chance to earn another win on ESPN.