|No. 15/13 Baylor (17-5, 6-3) at 14/12 West Virginia (18-4, 7-2)|
Feb. 6, 2016 | 7:00 p.m. CT
Morgantown, W.Va. | WVU Coliseum (14,000)
TV: ESP2 and WatchESPN
Radio: ESPN Central Texas
In their last two games, the Mountaineers have faced a struggle familiar to the Bears. Both teams have started games slowly. Against Florida, it was their undoing. In the first 10 minutes, WVU scored a meager 12 points and would eventually get downed 88-71 in the swamp. In contrast, a dismal 8 points in the first quarter of the game against ISU didn't hold them back from an eventual 81-76 win.
Baylor's only recent start that bad came in a road win over Oklahoma State (11 points in first 10 minutes).
West Virginia has played its last two games without Jonathan Holton, a key rebounder and inside scoring threat and an important piece in a team that has to run 9+ players to survive an incredibly high foul rate. Heading into tonight's game, WVU ranks 11th in total fouls and dead last in opponent FT/FGA (57.8), a measure of free throws attempted per field goal attempt. The payoff for this type of aggression is the top defensive turnover rate in the country. Opponents have turned the ball over on 26.7% of their possessions against Bob Huggins press.
If Baylor wants to deposit a 5th straight win over West Virginia, it will have to take care of the basketball and attack the Mountaineers' front line. Devin Williams (13 pts, 8.9 rebs) is a beast inside, but if he gets into foul trouble early that could put WVU in a tough situation. Scott Drew will be looking for bounce back games from both Johnathan Motley and Terry Maston. Their contributions in the paint and on the glass could swing this game Baylor's way.
The Bears won the turnover battle in all three match-ups last season, but that will be a tougher task without the calming play of Kenny Chery and Royce O'Neale. This season's point guard has been excellent taking care of the ball, but the responsibility of breaking the press will not be on Lester Medford alone. He will be looking for relief from Al Freeman, Taurean Prince, and Ish Wainright when the double team comes in the back court. While Medford has an averaged just 2 turnovers per game this season (2.7 in conference play), his tendency to break press on his own can get him into trouble, as it did against Oregon early in the season.
If Baylor can break press cleanly and feed the ball inside, the offense will be okay.
Defensively, they will have to contain Williams inside and close out on guards Jaysean Paige, Jevon Carter, and Daxter Miles. In its last two conference loses, Baylor has allowed its opponents to get going from outside. If WVU's guards get hot, that will likely spell doom for the Bears.
This'll be a tough one!