By winning nine of 10 games, including Saturday’s 72-68 come-from-behind decision at No. 17 TCU, No. 14 Baylor is in position to fight for the Big 12 regular season title.
The Bears (19-6, 8-4 Big 12) can take another step in that direction Monday night when they return home to Waco, Texas, to face a West Virginia team that needs a signature win to bolster its NCAA Tournament case.
Baylor leaned on its guards, as it often does, to pull out its latest win. Adam Flagler scored a game-high 28 points at TCU and LJ Cryer added 23 as the Bears avenged a Jan. 4 loss to the Horned Frogs.
“We all know the importance of good guard play and LJ and Adam really came through,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew.
The production from Flagler and Cryer allowed the Bears to survive an off-game from leading scorer Keyonte George. He averages 16.9 points per game but made 2 of 8 shots and scored only four points, tying his season low.
Flagler adds 15.9 points and 4.9 assists per game, while Cryer contributes 14.4 points. Both Flagler and Cryer are canning better than 40 percent from the 3-point line. Baylor also attacks the goal consistently, making nearly as many free throws (420) as its opponents have attempted (443).
The result at TCU gave the Bears perhaps their best road win of the year, although neutral-court wins over UCLA and Gonzaga in the nonconference schedule won’t hurt their NCAA seed next month.
Baylor improved to 26-9 against Top 25 teams the last four years with 16 of those wins on the road. The Bears are also 25-7 in Big 12 road games during that span.
“It just prepares us for the long haul, what we want to do when March Madness comes,” said Flagler.
Meanwhile, West Virginia (15-10, 4-8) saw a stretch of four wins in five games rudely interrupted Saturday with a 94-60 at No. 5 Texas. The Mountaineers were coming off a 76-71 upset of No. 11 Iowa State on Wednesday night, but committed 20 turnovers and fell behind 51-30 at halftime against the Longhorns.
Coach Bob Huggins was chagrined with his team’s turnover issues.
“How many times did we throw it out of bounds? One lady got hit in the face with one,” he said. “She didn’t see it coming. It was terrible; turned it over left and right. They’re good and talented … we shouldn’t lose like that.”
One reason West Virginia struggled early was that leading scorer Erik Stevenson (14.2 points per game) managed just three points on 1-for-7 shooting. It was his second straight game in single digits since he buried six 3-pointers and scored 34 points in a 93-61 rout of Oklahoma on Feb. 4.
The Mountaineers also get 11.5 points per game from Tre Mitchell, 10.4 from Kedrian Johnson and 10.1 from Joe Toussaint. Their best road win this year is a Nov. 11 blowout at Pittsburgh, which currently shares first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Baylor beat West Virginia 83-78 on Jan. 11 behind 32 points from George. The teams combined for 69 foul shots and 53 fouls.
–Field Level Media