Pierre Jackson scored 23 points and Brady Heslip added 19 to lead sixth-ranked Baylor to an 83-81 overtime victory over West Virginia Friday night in the final game of the Las Vegas Classic in Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.
“This would have been a good one for a bunch of young guys, but when you think how far we’ve come … we’ve come quite a long way,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “We do compete. We’ve just got to not take plays off.”
West Virginia (9-3) had a great opportunity to knock off the undefeated Bears (12-0), leading 76-73 with 33.2 seconds left and freshman Jabarie Hinds at the free throw line to try and make it a two possession game.
However, Hinds missed the free throw and Dominique Rutledge retrieved the miss and converted the put-back, but he was called for an offensive foul to wave off the basket. Had West Virginia gone up five there, Huggins said he was going to throw a 1-3-1 zone at Baylor to try and burn some clock.
“I was afraid to go 1-3-1 after he missed it because you’re trying to go 1-3-1 on the fly and they had (Gary) Franklin and Heslip in there, their two best shooters,” said Huggins.
On the other end, Jackson lost freshman Gary Browne for a 3 at the top of the key to tie the game with 15.4 seconds left.
“We had just talked about we’re switching everything and we’re not giving up a 3 – a 2 doesn’t beat us and then we stand back and let the guy shoot in a 3,” said Huggins.
Both teams had a chance to win the game in regulation, West Virginia when Truck Bryant’s jumper came up short, and Baylor, following a timeout with 2.2 seconds left when it got a full-court pass to Quincy Acy in the lane, but his turnaround shot clanged off the back of the rim ahead of the buzzer.
The key sequence in the game came with 2:43 left in overtime when the Mountaineers were trailing by three with the ball. That’s when Rutledge tried an ill-advised 3 from the corner, and then his replacement, Kevin Noreen, got beat by Acy for a basket on the other end to give the Bears an 83-78 lead.
Hinds was able to knock down a 3 on the wing to make it a two-point game with 1:38 remaining, and later, Hinds had a chance to either tie or win the game after he blocked Franklin’s jumper and Gary Browne rebounded the ball with 13 seconds left. Browne got the ball back to Hinds, who drove it up the floor for a good look at the basket, but he left his floating jumper short as the horn sounded.
The loss spoiled a great individual effort by Kevin Jones, who scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in his personal matchup against Baylor’s Perry Jones, III, who scored 4 points on 2 of 9 shooting at the other end.
The two biggest factors in the game were West Virginia’s free throw shooting (just 8 of 15) and Baylor’s 3-point shooting (12 of 25). Heslip and Jackson were a combined 9 of 14 from behind the arc.
Both teams had double-digit leads, West Virginia by 11, 24-13, with 9:02 left in the first half, and Baylor by 10, 52-42, with 15:42 remaining in the game.
Baylor led 40-33 at halftime.
Acy contributed 15 points and eight rebounds for the Bears, while Hinds came within a point of his season-high with 18. Bryant added 16, but he was just 4 of 15 from the floor.
Freshmen Aaron Brown and Gary Browne, who combined to score 27 in last night’s win over Missouri State, both failed to score tonight.
“I know it’s a lot to ask with all these freshmen, but I keep thinking back to when Devin (Ebanks), Truck and KJ were three of our top six and we ended up being pretty good,” said Huggins. “We got better and better and better.”
Deniz Kilicli, who has been bothered with a hip-pointer, scored 7 points in only 15 minutes of action before giving way to Noreen and then Rutledge, who finished with 8 points, four rebounds and two blocks in 10 minutes of action.
“Dom came in and gave us good minutes and then he loses his mind,” said Huggins. “It’s hard to understand what goes through their mind sometimes. Why would Dom jump up and shoot a 3? He made some really good plays for us and then he does some things he can’t do. That’s the battle – try to keep them doing things they can do.”
The Mountaineers have five days off before opening Big East play against Villanova at the WVU Coliseum on Wednesday night, Dec. 28. The Wildcats are now 7-5 after last night’s 73-52 victory over American.
Tickets are still available for the game and can be purchased by logging on to WVUGAME.com