MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Baylor got a career-high 22 points from Royce O’Neale to defeat West Virginia 88-75 Saturday afternoon at the WVU Coliseum.
O’Neale, who made all eight of his field goal attempts, came into this afternoon’s game averaging just six points per game.
West Virginia, playing without its third-leading scorer Terry Henderson
, out with an undisclosed illness, led by six at halftime, 42-36, before the Bear defense tightened up in the second half.
Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson had nine of Baylor’s 10 blocked shots, forcing West Virginia to shoot mostly jumpers in the second half. The Mountaineers made just nine of their 29 field goal attempts after the break as the Bears outscored West Virginia by 19 in the second half.
Austin contributed 19 points – many of those coming on isolation plays in the second half – and Jefferson added 15 as Baylor’s inside trio of O’Neale, Austin and Jefferson combined to make 21 of their 35 field goal attempts for 56 points.
That was clearly the difference in the game.
“We didn’t stop them at all,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “You can’t let them go down and score at will, which we did.”
tried to keep the Mountaineers in it with 32 points, a career best in Big 12 play, and Juwan Staten
added 16, but after those two, points were hard to come by.
“Fortunately, in the first half we made some shots and then in the second half they did a better job of guarding Eron and really helped on Wannie and he just couldn’t get it at the basket,” said Huggins.
West Virginia, needing to make up for the 12 points per game out of the lineup today with the loss of Henderson, got 8 off the bench from guard Gary Browne
. Nathan Adrian
and Remi Dibo finished with 6 points each – all four of their field goals coming from 3.
Overall, West Virginia made 22 of 55 from the floor for 40 percent while Baylor ended the game hitting 54.2 percent of its field goal attempts. The Mountaineers’ inability to stop teams in the paint is becoming an alarming trend down the stretch.
In last Saturday’s 17-point loss at Texas, the Longhorns were able to make 58 percent of their field goal attempts and finished the game outscoring West Virginia 46-14 in the paint.
Today, it was a similar story. Baylor had a 38-12 advantage in the lane and got whatever it wanted whenever the ball was in the hands of Austin, Jefferson and O’Neale.
“I’ve never had a group that was worse defensively than what we are,” said Huggins. “Seemingly when we try and help they skip it out and guys make shots. O’Neale hasn’t made shots like that all year and he makes shots, so we can’t help off of him.
“It’s amazing to me that they let our guys shoot so that they can fortify the paint,” Huggins continued. “If we let anybody open they make shots. The game changed when they ran a 6-foot-10 guy off a stagger for a 3 and we run out with our hands down.”
The loss was particularly damaging to West Virginia’s NCAA tournament hopes. The Mountaineers, after posting wins against Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Iowa State, have now dropped back-to-back games by double-digit margins to see their record dip to 15-12, 7-7.
“We had a week off and I didn’t think we had great energy,” said Huggins. “I kind of listened to ‘you’re kind of beat up and don’t go as hard’ where the reality is I should have grinded and grinded them, looking back.”
Baylor has won four straight to improve to 18-9, 6-8. The Bears have regular season games remaining against Texas, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas State before the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City.
West Virginia, meanwhile, has difficult games left at 17th-ranked Iowa State next Wednesday night, at home against TCU, on the road at Oklahoma and then at the Coliseum against eighth-ranked Kansas to wrap up the regular season.
West Virginia remains in sixth place in the Big 12 standings, one game ahead of Baylor.