Coming into the game, there were some concerns about Baylor's ability to handle the defensive pressure that West Virginia brings. Scott Drew & Crew had no such concerns. They came in prepared and dominated from tip to finish.
Baylor's defense set the tone early and suffocated WVU all game. It took until the 7:17 mark for the Mountaineers to reach double figure scoring. The Bears did a good job on offense of limiting live-ball turnovers and forcing WVU to run a half-court offense. Baylor packed the paint, forced turnovers on passes inside, and got out in transition before West Virginia could set up their pressure.
Rico Gathers was an unstoppable force, earning a double-double in the first half and finishing with 17 points and 16 rebounds. He shot 5-6 from the field and 7-10 from the line. He hounded the glass, made a couple of jump hooks, and obliterated the entire West Virginia team on this and-1 dunk:
Rico Gathers dunks all over West Virginia https://t.co/vIpVNGIm0w— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) February 7, 2015
Royce O'Neale did everything in this game. Not only did he record a host of counting stats, but his ball handling and passing allowed Baylor to break West Virginia's pressure. He finished with an outstanding, diverse stat line of 15-6-4-4.
In all, five Bears finished in double-digits in scoring. The ball moved around into open spaces, and when either Gathers, O'Neale, or Taurean Prince had a mismatch, they attacked the rim to great effect. Overall, Baylor looked like the more prepared and talented team. Scott Drew out-coached Bob Huggins all game. His game plan was superior, and his team executed at a much higher level.
West Virginia's Devin Williams led the Eers in scoring with 20 points, but he had a tough time all game. He couldn't handle Gathers' strength on either end, and it felt as though half of the passes to Williams in the post resulted in turnovers. He had 4 TOs of his own, and his team's determinedness to get him the ball was ultimately to their detriment.
Juwan Staten was largely a non-factor. He recorded 6 assists, but he also had only 6 points on 7 attempts, along with 3 turnovers. As they did Wednesday against Kyan Anderson, the Bears did an excellent job of containing Staten and forcing the ball out of his hands. That went a long way towards stopping the Mountaineers' offense.
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the positive contributions of Al Freeman and Ish Wainwright. Freeman finished 4-6 with 11 points, and he did a good job of moving the ball either with the pass or the dribble, not allowing the defense to settle. Wainwright had only 2 points, but he contributed 5 rebounds and assisted Freeman on a beautifully executed drive to the basket. Wainwright was aggressive with his dribble all game, something new for him. Let's hope this is a small step towards him gaining confidence on the offensive end to take advantage of his physical talents.
Here are the stats, per ESPN:
|Royce O'Neale, F||5-7||1-2||4-4||1||5||6||4||4||1||2||2||15|
|Rico Gathers, F||5-6||0-0||7-10||5||11||16||0||2||1||2||4||17|
|Johnathan Motley, F||2-7||0-0||3-5||2||2||4||1||1||3||0||5||7|
|Kenny Chery, G||3-8||1-4||4-4||0||2||2||4||1||0||4||1||11|
|Lester Medford, G||2-2||1-1||2-3||0||0||0||1||1||0||4||4||7|
|Taurean Prince, F||5-11||2-5||3-6||2||3||5||0||2||2||4||1||15|
|Deng Deng, F||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|Austin Mills, G||1-1||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|Al Freeman, G||4-6||1-3||2-3||0||3||3||1||0||0||1||2||11|
|Ishmail Wainright, G||1-3||0-0||0-0||1||4||5||1||0||0||1||1||2|
|West Virginia Mountaineers|
|Jonathan Holton, F||1-7||0-1||0-0||3||3||6||1||0||1||2||1||2|
|Devin Williams, F||8-16||0-1||4-6||5||10||15||1||2||0||4||3||20|
|Daxter Miles Jr., G||3-7||1-3||3-4||1||0||1||1||1||0||0||4||10|
|Gary Browne, G||0-2||0-2||0-1||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||2||0|
|Juwan Staten, G||2-7||0-3||2-2||1||1||2||6||0||0||3||3||6|
|Nathan Adrian, F||0-2||0-0||1-2||3||0||3||0||1||0||2||1||1|
|Brandon Watkins, F||0-2||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|BillyDee Williams, F||0-1||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Elijah Macon, F||2-3||0-0||3-8||0||1||1||2||2||0||2||2||7|
|Chase Connor, G||1-2||1-2||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||5||3|
|Jevon Carter, G||5-12||3-7||0-0||1||0||1||2||2||0||1||1||13|
|Jaysean Paige, G||0-3||0-3||0-0||1||0||1||1||2||0||0||0||0|
|Tarik Phillip, G||2-2||1-1||2-2||0||1||1||1||0||0||1||2||7|
|James Long, G||0-0||0-0||0-0||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Baylor is now 6-4 in the Big 12 and has beaten their last 3 opponents by at least 18 points. Moving forward, this road win will go a long way. All four of Baylor's remaining home games look very winnable, and there will be a couple of opportunities to gain extra wins on the road. Baylor is beginning to receive some talk as a possible 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament that could bust some brackets. It's a good time to be a Bear.