In the only Quarterfinal match-up featuring two ranked teams in this year’s Phillips 66 Big XII Men’s basketball championship, the Mountaineers and Bears didn’t disappoint by giving fans a fun and physical match-up all the way to the bitter end. However, it was Baylor’s ability to hit the big shots during the last few minutes that gave them today’s 80-70 victory at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
For a third consecutive game, the Mountaineers had to make due without senior guards Juwan Staten and Gary Browne. Both warmed up with the team prior to the game, but none were inserted into today’s line-up.
WVU fell behind the Bears 4-0 early before going on a 7-0 run, highlighted by a trey and a dunk by Daxter Miles Jr. The lead would change hands three more times from there during the first period before Baylor would settle for a two-point halftime lead (38-36).
Early in the second half, the lead changed hands for a brief moment when Jaysean Paige hit a three-pointer at the 16:44 mark of the period to make it 45-44 in favor of the Mountaineers. However, the Bears would quickly counter on the following possession as Baylor’s Taurean Prince buried a jumper from beyond the arc to give his team the 47-45 advantage.
The Mountaineers would take back the lead three more times before sloppy passing and ball handling, plus cold three-point shooting would ultimately hurt them down the stretch. With 3:57 remaining, and the Mountaineers down by just one point (67-66), Daxter Miles Jr. made the unfortunate mistake of forcing a pass down court – one that would end up in the hands of a wide-open Taurean Prince. The play ended with Rico Gathers slamming one home as Baylor would pull ahead by three (69-66).
Thirty seconds later, Jevon Carter lost the ball out of his hands on a fake pass. Lester Medford of BU would take the ball coast-to-coast to lay it in for an easy two as suddenly the Bears were up by five (71-66). In the final ten minutes of Thursday’s action, the Mountaineers went 0 for 7 from beyond the arc as they would fall be ten.
West Virginia shot 45.3% from the field in today’s game, while the Bears shot 51.0%. As a whole, WVU did rather well from three-point land in today’s game – converting 9 of 24 of their opportunities (37.5%) – they just were unable to hit a few when it mattered the most. Baylor out-rebounded WVU in this one – 31 to 28 – and held a healthy advantage in the turnover category – 14 to 10.
The Mountaineers got a career-day out of junior guard Jaysean Paige. The native of Jamestown, New York went 6 of 14 from the field, and 4 of 9 from long range, for a team-high 18 points, three rebounds, and two assists. Sophomore forward Devin Williams also finished with 18 as he went 7 of 9 from the field, and registered seven rebounds, and two assists in today’s contest. Daxter Miles Jr. was the the only other Mountaineer to reach double-figures in this one as he recorded 11.
Baylor was led in scoring this afternoon by junior forward Taurean Prince. Prince finished the game 7 of 9 from the field, and 3 of 5 from long range for 18 points, three steals, and two assists. Three other Bears recorded double-digits in this one as Royce O’Neale registered 16, Rico Gathers had 15, while Lester Medford added 10.
The Mountaineers drop to 23-9 overall with today’s loss. They are now 0-3 all-time in the Big XII Tournament. Baylor improves to 24-8 overall, and have set a new school record for consecutive wins against ranked opponents (seven straight). They will await the winner of Kansas and TCU in the Semi-finals.
West Virginia will have to wait till this Sunday in order to find out who they play in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The first game will likely be in the second round, and will either be next Thursday or Friday.