By a large margin, West Virginia leads the country in turnovers forced per game. The Mountaineers’ infamous pressure all over the court and constant in-your-face defensive attack has proven time and again it travels well, and we saw it change the dynamic of the game against Baylor on Monday night. The Bears struggled taking care of the ball.
But West Virginia’s success in creating mayhem Monday (18 turnovers) wasn’t enough to stop Baylor’s late 21-4 run. The Bears shot the lights out down the stretch and rode the hot hands of Al Freeman and Jake Lindsey, feeding Johnathon Motley down low at every available moment. And in doing so, it came away with a come-up-for-air victory against a top-10 team.
Baylor’s February woes -- poor offense, topped with a lingering injury to offensive catalyst Manu Lecomte -- took a pause while the Bears secured a 71-62 victory in Waco.
Winning without a starting point guard is a huge confidence boost
Baylor entered this game 3-5 in February and had to face West Virginia’s press.
And its starting point guard sat out with a lingering injury.
And the Bears still won by nine.
If you gave Scott Drew that outcome earlier in the week, he would have taken his butt to the Vegas slots. Even without Lecomte, who is second on the team in scoring and leads the team in assists, the Bears stole one from one of the peskiest teams in the country. Credit Jake Lindsey, who kept the Mountaineers defense at bay and consistently found the open man in the open floor. This is exactly the confidence boost Baylor needs as the postseason approaches.
Baylor’s hopes of a 2 seed are still alive
As I eluded to above, the month of February has been a remarkably bad one for Baylor given the expectations. Once a No. 1-ranked team and a near-surefire 1 seed, the Bears have slipped considerably thanks to losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State -- two quality teams, but teams that shouldn’t be giving a team like Baylor fits in the heart of conference play.
Getting a victory against anyone this month is something Drew won’t take for granted, but especially against a quality opponent in West Virginia. Its quality victories against Louisville, Oregon and Michigan State all came early in the season. And the naysayers who might have thought Baylor’s best days were behind it were hit with the realization that this team is indeed for real, even without its starting point guard.
West Virginia cost itself positioning for the postseason
A victory would have kept the Mountaineers in second place in the Big 12, behind Kansas and ahead of Iowa State and Baylor. But by splitting the season series with the Bears, it moves WVU a half-game behind Iowa State, which is arguably one of the hottest teams in the country.
With one regular-season game left for West Virginia (a home tilt with Iowa State) it looms large in Big 12 tournament seeding -- with Iowa State essentially controlling its own destiny with games against Oklahoma State and WVU looming.