KANSAS CITY, Mo. — West Virginia’s frigid stretches throughout the season have become a running joke among the Big 12’s cognescenti.
The Mountaineers stumbled into another hole early in Thursday’s game against Baylor, missing 14 of their first 18 shots as
they fell into an early 10-point deficit.
But then Esa Ahmad started producing. The results helped stake the Mountaineers to a xx-xx victory over Baylor.
The Mountaineers took control with a 20-5 run to end the first half. Baylor helped them along with one field goal during
a stretch of 8 minutes, 46 seconds with 7 turnovers to boot.
Jevon Carter’s shot from about 60 feet at the halftime buzzer gave the Mountaineers 29-23 lead at the break.
And back-to-back threes by Dax Miles during a 13-second span early in the second half pushed the lead to 13 points and punctuated
a 11-0 spurt in 99 seconds.
The fearsome “Press Virginia” defense did the rest, forcing the Bears into a season-worst 22 turnovers.
It was West Virginia’s third victory over Baylor this season.
The victory is the Mountaineers’ seventh in their last 10 games and boosts their record to 23-9 for the season.
Baylor, which lost its fourth game in its last five, drops to 18-14.
3 who mattered
Esa Ahmad: Continued his recent surge with his fourth consecutive double-figure scoring game. He finished with a season-high 21 points
and 8 rebounds. He’s averaging 16.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in his last four games.
Jevon Carter: Another solid game across the box score, the Mountaineers’ leader went for 16 points, 11 assists and 6 steals. It was his
seventh career double-double.
Dax Miles Jr.: His perimeter shooting got the Mountaineers going in the second half. He finished with 19 points, keyed by a team-high 4
3-pointers. He also added 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
The turning point
West Virginia erupted on an 11-0 spurt early in the second half capped by back-to-back threes by Miles. The run extended
its lead to 40-27 with 16:33 left in the game. Baylor came no closer than nine points during the rest of the game.
- It was interesting to watch Baylor have so much trouble with West Virginia’s press. Most Big 12 teams aren’t affected as much
as teams that don’t see it very often. But the Bears struggled all night trying to get the ball into their offense.
- West Virginia’s balanced playing time might help the Mountaineers in the compressed Big 12 tournament format where a team
will play three games in less than 72 hours if it makes the championship game. No Mountaineer other than Carter played for
more than 34 minutes minutes in the game Thursday, which should bode well for them in their game Friday against Texas Tech.
- After shooting less than 36 percent in either of the first two games against the Mountaineers, Baylor was more effective at
42 percent, but still well below its season average.
The number: 15
The feeding frenzy sparked the Mountaineers to a 20-5 edge in points off turnovers. Not only does it expose how effective
West Virginia was in capitalizing on Baylor mistakes. But it also shows how the Bears sputtered turning West Virginia’s 15
turnovers into much offense.
What’s next for West Virginia basketball
The Mountaineers qualified for the Big 12 semifinals for the third consecutive season as they will hook up with Texas Tech.
The two teams split during the regular season with each winning on its home court.
Both programs are looking for their first Big 12 tournament championships.
The victory over Baylor should improve the Mountaineers’ seed and give them a strong chance to finish with a top-four seed
when they are released on Selection Sunday.
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