No. 6 West Virginia fell to third-ranked Baylor in overtime on Saturday, 94-89, as the Bears earned the Big 12 regular season title.
The contest was less of a basketball game and more of a prizefight at times, as momentum constantly changed hands — in the final three minutes of regulation alone, there were five lead changes before the game ultimately headed into overtime. This remained so through the overtime period, when the Bears took the game-finalizing lead with just 34 seconds to go.
“That’s a really good basketball team, obviously. I think we’re a really good basketball team,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “We just didn’t do what we had to do.”
Baylor appeared to be in control in the first four minutes. Guard Jared Butler brought the energy, capping off an 8-0 run with a three-pointer and a layup to get the Bears ahead by double-digits.
Just as quickly, Taz Sherman swung the game back in WVU’s favor, scoring eight straight points to get WVU back within five. This coincided with a Baylor cold streak in which the Bears missed 11 straight field goals — but they’d get a little groove back before the half to keep WVU at an arm’s length.
WVU made one last push before the half with an eight-point run to get within a point with a second to go and possession. Sherman turned the ball over on the inbound, however, and gave Baylor the chance to score — a foreshadowing of sorts for the final stretch of the game.
Baylor took advantage, finding Butler to make a three-pointer to give the Bears a four-point lead at half. That got the guard’s first-half total to 11 points, trailing Sherman’s 12-point output for the period.
WVU began to chip away at that deficit right out of the halftime gate. Sean McNeil tied it up at the 17:13 mark with a three-pointer, which ignited a red-hot run from the guard — he ended up scoring 11 straight for WVU, including a trio of three-pointers. He finished with 15 points in the second half and 18 in the game.
Baylor started making up ground and eventually turned it into a back-and-forth game in the last five minutes. Ultimately, Butler would get to the rim with two seconds to tie it up with a layup.
WVU opened the overtime period with two trips to the free throw line, as Miles McBride and Derek Culver both made a pair of free throws — both trips were wiped away by quick Baylor responses, however. The Mountaineers scored just one field goal in OT, compared to four from the Bears.
Mistakes cost WVU dearly in the final minute, as they gave up two turnovers — part of their 16 for the game. That turned it into a free throw game for Baylor, who put it out of reach from WVU.
“Those plays hurt us,” Huggins said.
Both teams had a good day in the shooting department. WVU sunk 46.4 percent from the field and 39.1 from deep, but the Bears had the edge with respective clips of 51.4 and 41.9 percent.
Sherman led WVU with a game-high 26 and was one of four Mountaineers in double-digits, along with Miles McBride’s 19 points (plus eight assists), McNeil’s 18 and Jalen Bridges’s 12. Derek Culver was kept quiet, however, as he scored just nine — all of which came from the line — while grabbing nine rebounds.
“They were extremely physical with [Culver],” Huggins said. “I don’t think there’s anybody in college basketball, other than maybe that big kid from Illinois that can move Derek if he doesn’t want to be moved. He chased the ball too much. He chased the ball because he wasn’t getting it when they put really good ball pressure on our guys.”
Butler had 25 for the Bears before fouling out, as well as six assists and three rebounds. Davion Mitchell was close behind with 20 points and five assists, followed by Matthew Mayer at 18 points and MaCio Teague with 11.
The victory gives Baylor the top seed in the Big 12 Tournament with two games to go in the regular season. WVU remains in the second seed for the moment, and locks that up if they win either of their two remaining games as they host TCU on Thursday and Oklahoma State on Saturday.