West Virginia suffers 88-75 loss to Baylor

MORGANTOWN -West Virginia guard Juwan Staten had a feeling the Mountaineers second matchup with Baylor would be different than the first right from the start.

”They came out and really went inside. The first time we played them it seemed they were taking a lot of perimeter shots,” the junior said. ”Even their bigs were taking perimeter shots. The biggest thing was, they came out early and got it going inside. Once you get two guys like (Isaiah) Austin and (Cory) Jefferson that start getting their touch and making shots and gaining confidence, it’s pretty much at their mercy.”

Baylor outscored West Virginia 38-12 in the paint as the Bears (18-9, 6-8 Big 12) rallied to beat the Mountaineers, 88-75, inside a packed WVU Coliseum to avenge a late January home loss.

It was the second consecutive loss for West Virginia (15-12, 7-7) and third in its last four.

The Mountaineers, who led 42-36 at the half, started the second half shooting 1 of 6 and eventually ended 9 of 28.

The Bears, who have won four straight, took their first lead of the game when Gary Franklin hit a free throw to make it 50-49 with 13:41 to go and outscored WVU 14-8 over a five-minute span to take a 64-58 advantage.

WVU’s Eron Harris, who finished with a game-high 32 points, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to get the Mountaineers back to within two at 67-65, but Baylor’s Royce O’Neale answered with his fourth 3 and West Virginia never threatened again.

O’Neale led the Bears with a team-high 22 points and was a perfect 8 of 8 from the floor to go along with six assists and six rebounds. The junior entered the game averaging six points per contest.

”Royce O’Neale has never shot like he did (Saturday),” WVU coach Bob Huggins said.

”They made shots. He hasn’t made shots like that all year. That put them ahead.”

Austin added 19 points and seven blocks for the Bears, while Jefferson had 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Kenny Chery had 13 points and seven assists and Brady Heslip hit four 3s for his 12 points as all five Baylor starters finished in double figures.

Staten finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Staten and Harris were the only WVU players to finish in double figures. Sophomore Terry Henderson, who has hit double figures in 15 of the last 19 games, did not play.

”In the second half, Eron was the option,” Huggins said. ”He was pretty much the guy we looked to. Juwan’s getting 17 a game, Eron is getting 18 a game, and Terry gets 13. We didn’t have Terry and that hurt. They closed Staten and Harris off, so it was hard.”

West Virginia used an early 7-0 spurt to take a 17-9 lead with 12:32 remaining in the first. Baylor tied it at 31-31 on an O’Neale 3, but allowed a Nathan Adrian 3 with 20 second left to go into halftime with a six-point deficit.

The Bears ended the game with a 34-31 advantage on the glass and blocked 10 shots.

”We can take the easy road out and say it was because we didn’t have Terry,” Staten said, ”but there’s been other games where we haven’t had Terry. Terry wasn’t playing with us earlier this season and we found ways to play through it. The guys that come in behind Terry have played enough minutes that it shouldn’t really matter. It hurt not to have Terry, but that’s not what killed us. The defensive end is what killed us.”

The Mountaineers hit the road on Wednesday with a trip to No. 17 Iowa State (21-5, 9-5).