No. 12 Baylor blows past Mountaineers, 94-81

U.S. NEWS


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia has had its fair share of issues on offense and defense for much of the season.

Lately, an inability to slow the opposition has hampered the Mountaineers in a major way.

The latest example came Saturday as No. 12 Baylor shot better than 58 percent in the opening half and hardly let up, finishing 30 for 56 from the field to roll by the Mountaineers 94-81 inside the WVU Coliseum.

“Some of it comes down to closeouts, pick and roll coverage and what we’re trying to do on the back side,” WVU interim head coach Josh Eilert said. “There are things we can clean up, but the most glaring ones for me are the step-in shots off second-chance opportunities. That’s a pretty easy shot to make, especially with the talent they have on that roster.”

While West Virginia (8-17, 3-9) nearly matched the Bears’ field-goal shooting percentage by finishing 27 for 51, the Mountaineers did much of their damage late and scored 30 points over the final 9:53 after the game had all but been decided.

The Mountaineers led early and their last advantage was 12-9 on a Kerr Kriisa three-pointer that marked one of his two baskets.

A JaKobe Walter triple allowed Baylor (19-6, 8-4) to get even and marked the start of an 11-2 spurt in 2:02 that seemingly gave the Bears control of the contest. That run was highlighted by five field goals from five different players — a theme throughout for BU, which had six double-figure scorers and three players score at least 18 points.

“It takes a team to win and if you go into a game relying on one person and he has an off night or the defense takes him away, you’re done,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “It’s great to have that balance.”

The Bears took their first double-digit lead at 37-26 courtesy of a Josh Ojianwuna dunk, at which point the Bears had made 16-of-25 shots.

While RaeQuan Battle countered with a triple to bring the Mountaineers back to within eight, that’s what West Virginia’s halftime deficit was after Fairmont native and former Mountaineer Jalen Bridges threw down a dunk in the final minute to send the Bears to the break with a 42-34 advantage.

WVU made half of its 20 field-goal attempts to shoot a more than respectable 50 percent in the first half, but the Mountaineers were plagued by an inability to get stops and 10 turnovers.

Baylor, which had four first-half turnovers, had 22 paint points and a 12-7 edge in points off turnovers through 20 minutes.

“We’re bounce passing entry passes on the perimeter, which is certainly not something you want to do,” Eilert said. “It’s not always on the guards. Sometimes it’s timing or we’re cutting to get open or a lack thereof.”

Any thought of a WVU rally to put a scare into the Bears evaporated early into the second half, which Baylor began with consecutive triples from Nunn to take its biggest lead to that point — 48-34.

JaKobe Walter’s trey moments later made it 51-36 and three triples for BU in the opening 2:30 of the second half as the Bears were in complete control.

“From the beginning of the game, we did a great job on the offensive end,” Drew said.

A RayJ Dennis three with 12:33 remaining made it 66-44 for the first 20-plus point margin of the matchup.

Baylor’s lead was still 18 at 79-61 after Walter’s three with 6:21 remaining.

“It wasn’t our best defensive game. They had more wide open threes than they should have,” Battle said. “I messed up on a couple scout things and Ja’Kobe got going on that with his threes.”

The Mountaineers pulled to within 81-67 on Battle’s dunk, though Eilert was whistled for a technical foul seconds later after disagreeing with a foul called on Kriisa, who was also visibly frustrated with several whistles throughout.

“Kerr plays with an incredible amount of emotion and sometimes it can be to his detriment arguing calls,” Eilert said. “I tell him every day to let me handle that. I’m not going to get into the officiating.”

WVU got as close as 89-80 on Battle’s triple with 1:26 left, but that marked the Mountaineers’ final field goal.

“That first half, having eight live-ball turnovers put us in quite the hole and we didn’t start the second half well either,” Eilert said. “We can’t wait to pick up our competitive nature until we’re down double digits.”

Walter led all players with 23 points despite shooting 6 for 17. Nunn added 20 on 11 shots and Dennis scored 18 on eight shots.

Yves Missi added 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting, while Bridges and Ojianwuna scored 10 apiece in the victory.

The Bears had 19 assists against only eight turnovers and scored 22 points off nine offensive rebounds.

“The numbers aren’t terrible at minus-2 in rebounding (27-25), but their nine offensive rebounds let to 22 second-chance points. That’s a critical issue as well as taking care of the ball,” Eilert said.

Battle’s 25 points led the Mountaineers and center Jesse Edwards followed with 21 and a game-high nine rebounds.

Those were WVU’s only double-figure scorers in what marked the team’s fourth straight loss and prolonged a winless February to this point. The Mountaineers are surrendering more than 88 points on average through the four February losses.

“You have to be able to finish the possession and we didn’t do so,” Eilert said. “Defense hasn’t been our strong point by any means from the beginning. It’s a very physical league and we don’t have that big, strong inside presence.”



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