Well that was, once again, gross. West Virginia is just definitively Baylor’s kryptonite this year.
The first half saw the Bears climb to an 8 point lead and hold that until 7:19 left in the half. The Bears got this lead behind inside shots from Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. and Terry Maston, a layup by Manu Lecomte, and a three pointer from Nuni Omot.
Then everyone went cold and the Mountaineers started turning turnovers into points. During this stretch, Jake Lindsey made two free throws, then missed the front end of a 1 and 1 and Mark Vital went 1 of 2, leaving 3 potential points out there. When you’re cold from the field, you’ve got to make free throws to get some points and see the ball go through the hoop. The only field goal scored during the final 8:42 was a dunk by Tristan Clark with 6 seconds left. The Mountaineers ended the half on a 20-5 run, capped by a prayer of a 3⁄4 court buzzer beater from Jevon Carter.
The second half opened with the Bears getting a couple of quick baskets from Nuni Omot and Terry Maston, fueling hope that the Bears could turn it around, getting the game to within 2 points. Then Baylor just started committing turnover after turnover after turnover and West Virginia hit 3 three pointers in a row. to push the lead to 13 points. King McClure responded with a much needed three of his own.
From there the game just kinda went into back and forth mode for a while, Baylor wasn’t able to get shots when West Virginia missed and West Virginia made shots when Baylor made some. It also turned into foul city against the Bears, with 7 on the Bears and only 3 on the Mountaineers with over 13 minutes left in the game. This moved to 9 and 4 with 10:22 left in the second half. Also noticeable were the wild three pointers by Baylor. I lost track of how many threes the Bears put up that either bricked or completely air balled.
Somehow, though, the Bears got it back to within single digits at the 10:01 mark with Manu making both of his 1 and 1 free throw attempts. The Mountaineers, quickly pushed it back up to double digits on the very next possession. Two Baylor turnovers later and a foul on an Esa Ahmad dunk and the Bears were down 14 with 9:29 left. The Mountaineers pushed the lead to 19 points after a three pointer and and a foul on the offensive boards. The Bears crawled back to within 15 points with just over 5 minutes left before West Virginia made another deep three. That seemed to fully signal the end for Baylor. They actually were able to get it to within 10 with 1:21 left but it was too little too late.
Oh and did I mention the turnovers? The Bears ended the game with mind boggling awful 22 turnovers. For reference, the Bears only made 21 field goals in this game, shooting 42%. Interestingly, West Virginia only shot slightly better at 43%.6. The difference was certainly the turnovers and press. Every in bound for the Bears felt like it could and would end in disaster, such that if the Bears made it past mid court they seemed too mentally and physically exhausted to run good offense.
The Bears losing is a big blow to Baylor’s tournament chances. They are firmly on the bubble and will be sweating it out on Sunday. Baylor will need to be rooting for every other potential bubble team to lose and that the committee will see Baylor’s resume as good enough to give them the go ahead over Texas and Oklahoma State, both teams Baylor swept.