No. 5 Baylor returned to Waco with another win after its 77-68 victory against West Virginia on Tuesday.
The Bears, the defending national champions and still one of the top teams in the country, earned a quality win over the Mountaineers as they lacked two of their top contributors. At the same time, the loss stung for West Virginia as the Mountaineers nearly pulled off its biggest win of the season.
“We hurt ourselves,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “we continually stub our toe when your miss an enormous amount of one-footers, two-footers around the rim.”
West Virginia scored 18 points in the paint, including 14 points from seven layups — but they left as many as 30 points on the floor, as they missed a total of 15 layups in the contest. None of the Mountaineers’ shots were blocked in the game.
There even was a stretch in the second half in which the Mountaineers missed eight straight shots in 90 seconds — seven of which were layups, and four of those layup attempts happened in the same possession.
“It’s not like they had a great shot blocker,” Huggins said. “It’s more understandable if there is a great shot blocker in there, but they don’t have a great shot blocker, and this has been a habitual problem.”
Huggins made sure to note after the loss that he made his layups during his years as a WVU basketball player. He also reminisced about how one of his former Cincinnati players, Danny Fortson, trained his inside scoring game.
Long story short, Huggins brought one of the football team’s linemen onto the court to make contact with players while they took layups. Fortson, a 6-7, 260-pound forward, brought in three linemen.
“He got those guys in there and I mean they hit him, and it got to where they were like, ‘Coach, he’s killing us. We can’t do anything with him,'” Huggins recalled. “We don’t have anyone with Danny’s physique obviously, but still the guys that excel at this game are guys that put time in.”
Fortson was a two-time consensus All-American, and averaged 21.3 points per game as a senior — all without taking a single three-pointer in his entire college career.
Of course, WVU’s players are well aware of the missed opportunities on the floor.
“That’s something that we’ve gotta fix, we can’t miss bunnies right there around the rim, especially in this type of game,” said WVU Sean McNeil. “We needed those buckets, and myself included, I missed one. It’s just tough, those are buckets you need, especially there late because we needed some points on the board and we just didn’t get them.”