Keyonte George’s career high 32 points lifted the Bears to a much needed win on the road, delivering Baylor its first conference win on the season. The Baylor Bears (11-5, 1-3) scratched out the 83-78 win against the West Virginia Mountaineers (10-6, 0-4).
With just over 2 minutes remaining, George dribbled into a long three and rattled in a 70-66 lead. Two Bridges’ free throws stretched it to a 6-point lead that no amount of free throw attempts was able to overcome. George sealed his 32nd point and the win from the free throw line two game minutes and 15 real-world minutes later.
In this brutal game, both teams were under 45% from the floor and shot a combined 69 free throws on 53 fouls. Three West Virginia starters fouled out, a 4th had 4 fouls, and three Baylor players had 4 fouls. Every other Baylor player who played more than 4 minutes had 3 fouls. Fifty-four of those free throw attempts came in the second half alone after a relatively clean first.
The first half, while it had more flow than the second half, was a struggle offensively for both teams. Until Adam Flagler (19 pts, 4 asts) and George each hit a three in the final minute of the first half, both teams were shooting under 40% from the floor. George’s spectacular fallaway three in the corner ended the half and gave him 15 points as the buzzer sounded. His jump shooting was Baylor’s only reliable offense for the Bears.
On the other end, Scott Drew mixed up the defense, flipping between man-to-man and a 1-3-1 zone. The Mountaineers struggled to adjust. They were just 1-12 from three.
Still, WVU’s 7 forced turnovers and 5 offensive rebounds kept them in the half. The game had a familiar feeling for the Bears, who road hot three-point shooting (6-13) yet left the door cracked for an opponent comeback.
And WVU did, indeed, come back.
George finished an and-1 to get to 21, and Baylor was up 41-34 hoping to pull away. Back-to-back threes by WVU, though, brought it to a 1-point game, 41-40.
Unfazed, Flagler led Baylor’s response, aiming up Cryer for a jumper and knocking down a trailer three, forcing a WVU timeout to draw up an answer, which came from a Toussaint three.
A bad pass by Flagler led to a terrible heave, then Thamba picked up a poor foul contesting a shot at the rim, his 4th. Mitchell’s free throws brought it to 46-45 and a chance to take the lead for the first time in the game after George’s three attempt swirled out of the rim.
Baylor got a breath of life when Mitchell missed two free throws with he change to take the lead, allowing George a chance to hit a tough runner. That gave the Bears a 48-45 cushion.
Some more poor ball control and defense sent Kedrian Johnson to the free throw line, and he gave WVU its first lead of the game with under 12 minutes in the game. Drew answered with a massive call, getting the lob play open for Ojianwuna, reclaiming a 50-49 lead.
The next few minutes were back-and-forth, neither team able to pull away as both offenses settled in for the first time all game.
Until the fouls came, and they came almost by the dozens.
Then no one had flow. Not you, not me, not the bourgeoise referees. Actually, the bourgeoise referees found too much of a flow.
Despite the ugly nature of the contest, this was a tough win for Baylor in a hard road environment. West Virginia, though winless in conference, is a good team. Baylor’s guards showed up with 64 combined points. George was 5-9 from three and 10-18 from the floor, while Flagler and LJ Cryer (13 pts) were 4-10 from three and 9-20 from the floor.
Ultimately, though, this game was won by George’s individual brilliance. The defense was poor again (WVU had 1.16 points per possession), and only broke even on assists and turnovers. If not for George, the Bears get run out of Morgantown tonight.
Still, the Bears got that win, and for tonight, that will be enough.