Mountaineers to Face Baylor

  • By John Antonik
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  • January 27, 2014 04:28 PM
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Junior guard Juwan Staten is coming a 19-point performance at Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon.
Texas Tech Athletic Media Relations photo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - College basketball coaches wear many hats – leaders, teachers, strategists, encouragers, motivators, and yes, sometimes even psychologists.
Both West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and Baylor’s Scott Drew have had to tap into their inner Dr. Phil at times to get their basketball teams back on track. And both may have to do it once again Tuesday night when the Mountaineers and the Bears hook up at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.
West Virginia (11-9, 3-4) is coming off a hard-fought, 81-75 loss at 11th-ranked Oklahoma State that was anyone’s game with five minutes remaining. The Mountaineers actually had a chance to tie it with 49 seconds left, but freshman forward Nathan Adrian couldn’t get a wide-open 3 to go down.
WVU enters Tuesday night’s game with Baylor having lost four of its last five and is currently in the midst of its toughest stretch of the season with its next eight games coming against RPI Top 50 teams.
Baylor, meanwhile, dropped its fourth straight on Saturday at home to Texas, 74-60, and has posted double-digit losses in three of its last four games. The Bears (13-6, 1-5) were once 12-1 with nice non-conference wins against South Carolina, Colorado and Kentucky.
“As coaches there is a psychologist in us all and we’re trying to push whatever buttons that we can to bring out the best in the team,” said Baylor’s Scott Drew.
For his guys, Drew says it’s a matter of shooting the ball a little better on offense, which should help them perform a little bit better on the defensive end of the floor, too.
“When you analyze why we’ve faltered the last two weeks in conference we haven’t defended well,” he said. “We’re giving up 49 percent defensive field goal percentage and we’re shooting poorly at 39 percent. I think the last game (Texas) we had a frustration where everybody wanted to win and they were taking it on their shoulders rather than trying to help make the extra pass or get it to your teammate to be able to get a better look.”
For West Virginia, it’s simply a matter of young basketball team getting a key basket or a big stop late in the game to get over the hump. Seven of West Virginia’s nine losses this year have been by single-digit margins, including six by six points or less.
The Mountaineers led Oklahoma State for most of the first half and also a portion of the second half before eventually running out of gas.
Eron Harris (21 points) and Juwan Staten (19) were the big guns for WVU against the Cowboys, while West Virginia’s No. 3 scoring option Terry Henderson, only managed 8 points on 1 of 10 shooting. Henderson scored 16 in the loss to Texas, 2 at Kansas State and then a career-high 28 against Texas Tech prior to Saturday’s Oklahoma State game. If there is any consistency in Henderson’s inconsistent play, then it would seem he is due for a big performance on Tuesday night against Baylor.
“He shot it very poorly at Kansas State and then shot it real well against Texas Tech and then was 1 for 10 against Oklahoma State – and the one field goal he got was a layup off a steal,” Huggins pointed out. “We need him to make shots. For some reason it seems like when Eron is making shots Terry isn’t, and we need both of those guys to make shots for us.”
The one player Huggins has been able to count on this season has been Staten, who is making a strong statement for first team all-Big 12 honors this year. The junior guard is averaging 17.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game and has scored 20 or more in six games this season.
In fact, Staten has failed to reach double figures in scoring just once this year – and that came in a blowout victory against Loyola when the Mountaineers didn’t need his points anyway. In seven Big 12 games so far this season, Staten shows averages of 19.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game. He recently scored 25 in an overtime win at Texas Tech back on Jan. 6.
Harris’ 21 at Oklahoma State boosted his season average to 17.6 points per game to rank second in the Big 12; Harris is also second in the conference in 3-point field goals made with 55.
Henderson is the only other Mountaineer player averaging double digits at 12.3 points per contest.
Baylor, meanwhile, got 14 points from Gary Franklin and 12 from Taurean Prince in a 14-point loss to Texas last Saturday. The Bears shot just 32.1 percent from the floor, hitting only 3 of 17 from 3.
This season, Baylor is shooting 46.1 percent as a team while holding opposing teams to just 41.1 percent from the field. The Bears possess one of the biggest front lines in the conference with 7-foot-1 Isaiah Austin, 6-foot-9 Cory Jefferson and 6-foot-7 Taurean Prince in their lineup. Those three guys have provided the bulk of the scoring, rebounding and blocks for Baylor this season.
“The thing that is hard is being able to assimilate their length,” said Huggins. “They play a lot of matchup zone and do a great job with it. I think it’s extra effective because of their ability to block shots.”
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN2. The Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG’s coverage on stations throughout West Virginia will begin with the pregame show at 6:30 p.m.