In a game marred by foul calls, the Baylor Bears (18-9, 9-5) relied on its small ball to put away a tough-minded West Virginia Mountaineers (10-17, 2-12) 82-75. Devonte Bandoo (22 points, 4 rebounds) was huge for Baylor as Makai Mason had his worst game as a Bear. Bandoo’s three-point shooting on the catch and coming off screens lifted Baylor’s offense throughout the game.
Mario Kegler had a career game for the second time this season against the Mountaineers. He had a game high 23 points on 6-7 FG, 2-3 3PT, and 10 rebounds. Kegler sealed the game down the stretch with 6 free throws.
His fellow in the front court, Mark Vital (15 points, 14 rebounds), was Baylor’s most important player today. Vital notched a double-double five minutes into the second half and was huge cutting baseline and creating second chance opportunities. His effort and ability to defend without fouling stabilized a rotation rocked by foul trouble.
Mason, despite playing 34 minutes, went 0-7 from the floor for only 4 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assist. He couldn’t get anything going from anywhere on the floor and looked labored on the offensive end.
The refereeing in this game was terrible. There were 51 foul calls and three player ejections. The 69 total free throws were not nice. Baylor plays much better as a team when they can get some offensive flow. The refs weren’t having any of that. There were more fouls (51) than field goals (47). Baylor was 26-35 from the stripe. West Virginia was 23-34.
As a result, Baylor had to rely on a lot of small ball units. The long absences of Freddie Gillespie (2 points, 0 rebounds) and Flo Thamba (1 point, 2 rebounds) were a large part of why Mason played so many minutes despite being obviously off. Scott Drew’s only real option was to play three guards in Mason, Bandoo, and Jared Butler (12 points, 4 assists). Even Butler had to sit for a good portion of the second half with 4 fouls, despite going without a foul call in the first half.
The absence of Baylor’s bigs helped West Virginia on the offensive glass and around the rim. The duo of Derek Culver (9 points, 6 rebounds, 2-9 FG) and Lamont West (16 points, 4 rebounds, 4-14 FG) were largely responsible for most of the fouls drawn, even though neither of them was any good from the field. The Mountaineers scored 26 points in the paint and 15 on second chance points. West Virginia, who has scored a putrid .92 points per possession against conference opponents, earned 1.18 points per possession in the first half, the equivalent of a top-10 offense. In the second half, Baylor’s defense ground out good possessions and forced more outside shooting. If it weren’t for the touchy foul calls all game, West Virginia’s offense would have completely sputtered.
Baylor found its biggest offensive success in the high pick-and-roll. West Virginia was aggressive in its coverage, which allowed players like Devonte Bandoo to come open on the wing for threes or Mark Vital to cut baseline. Baylor took control of the game in a 2-minute stretch in the second half with three consecutive threes from Butler, Bandoo, and Matthew Mayer (3 points, 3 rebounds) while West Virginia had difficulty making their free throws.
This was a huge win if only because losing would have been a terrible mark on Baylor’s resume. Looking back at the game log, this one won’t stand out as a big plus, but when a game is this ugly, it’s more about not losing. The Bears did that today despite having the worst game of the season from its best (active) player.
Baylor’s next game is Wednesday when the Texas Longhorns come to Waco. It will take much better play (and refereeing) for Baylor to earn a win in that game.