Scott Drew

West Virginia forward Devin Williams (41) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Feb, 6, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson

No. 14 West Virginia takes care of No. 15 Baylor

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Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.

Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.

They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.

The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.

They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.

West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.

No. 17 Baylor surges past Georgia 83-73 in Big 12/SEC

Baylor forward Rico Gathers (2) shoots past Georgia forward Yante Maten (1) and forward Mike Edwards (32) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 83-73. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP)
Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP
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WACO, Texas (AP) Rico Gathers had 17 points and nine rebounds, and No. 17 Baylor used a quick start to the second half to beat Georgia 83-73 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday night.

Gathers had one of Baylor’s five three-point possessions during a 17-2 run in the first 4 minutes after halftime to turn a 35-32 deficit into a 49-37 lead. The Bears (17-4) scored just three points before the first media timeout in the first half.

Ishmail Wainright hit a tying 3-pointer 12 seconds into the second half, and Al Freeman put Baylor ahead for good with another in the Bears’ 34th consecutive home win against a nonconference opponent. It was the first meeting between the schools.

J.J. Frazier had 21 points and 11 assists to lead the Bulldogs (11-8), who lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

After Frazier scored Georgia’s final five points before halftime to break a 30-all tie, Lester Medford set the tone for Baylor’s early second-half spurt by picking up the ball near midcourt with 5.1 seconds left and racing to the basket for a layup just before the halftime buzzer.

Freeman had two 3-pointers during the run and scored all 14 of his points after halftime. Taurean Prince joined Gathers with a three-point play.

The sixth three-point conversion in the first 7 minutes of the second half – a layup and free throw by Johnathan Motley – pushed the Baylor run to 26-6 for a 56-41 lead, starting with Medford’s layup to finish the first half.

Prince scored 13 points, Motley added 12 and Medford had nine points and eight assists as the Bears improved to 8-1 against the SEC since the 2012-13 season.

It was the 16th win in 17 home games for Baylor, the only loss coming to No. 1 Oklahoma last weekend. The Bears are tied atop the Big 12 with Oklahoma and West Virginia at 6-2.

The Bulldogs shot 50 percent and led most of the way before halftime, but missed 10 of their first 12 attempts as the Bears took control on their way to a 3-0 record in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

All of Georgia’s four double-figure scorers reached the mark against Baylor, with Yante Maten getting 18 points followed by Kenny Gaines (14) and Charles Mann (13). But the Bulldogs were outscored 26-7 off the bench by the deeper Bears. Motley led Baylor’s reserves in scoring.


Georgia: Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are the remaining Big 12 teams the Bulldogs haven’t faced. … Georgia fell to 12-13 against the Big 12.

Baylor: Prince was honored before the game for becoming the school’s 30th 1,000-point scorer. He reached the milestone Jan. 9 at Iowa State. … The Baylor football team took the Russell Athletic Bowl trophy to midcourt for a halftime celebration, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd.


Georgia: Hosts South Carolina on Tuesday.

Baylor: Hosts Texas on Monday.

Al Freeman’s overtime surge pushes No. 13 Baylor past K-State

Jackson State guard Jesse Love (25) celebrates after sinking a basket in front of Jackson State forward Janarius Middleton (35) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In their Big 12 opener January 2, No. 13 Baylor was on the receiving end of a 102-74 beating at Allen Fieldhouse and looked nothing like a team capable of contending for a conference title. Eighteen days later, Scott Drew’s Bears grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 with a 79-72 double-overtime win over Kansas State in Waco.

The key in the extra sessions was guard Al Freeman, who scored all 11 of his points after the end of regulation. Freeman was responsible for all seven of Baylor’s points in the first overtime, and his scoring outburst came just in time for Baylor as they struggled to put away the Wildcats. Baylor wasn’t at their best, committing 19 turnovers (to be fair, K-State had 22) and allowing Kansas State to grab 17 offensive rebounds amongst other issues.

But they found a way to get the win, avoiding a defeat that would have caused a five-way tie atop the Big 12 standings.

Of those 19 turnovers Taurean Prince was responsible for six of them, and when combined with his 7-for-18 night from the field the senior wing wasn’t as efficient as he’s capable of being. That, along with the play of guards Freeman and Lester Medford (nine points, 13 assists and three turnovers) will be key for Baylor if they’re to remain a factor in the Big 12 race and remove the bad taste of last season’s hasty NCAA tournament exit from their collective mouths.

The talent is there, especially in the front court with Prince being joined by Rico Gathers Sr. and Johnathan Motley, and reserve Terry Maston averaging 10.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in Big 12 play off the bench. How consistent the guards and the other key decision-makers (meaning Prince) can be with the ball in their hands will determine just how good Baylor can be.

If they’re all producing in their roles, Baylor will certainly have staying power. With No. 1 Oklahoma visiting Waco this weekend, Baylor couldn’t afford to lose to Kansas State. And thanks to Al Freeman getting going in overtime, the Bears will go into that game in sole possession of first place.