Baylor loss a big blow to WVU

MORGANTOWN – The West Virginia University men’s basketball team obviously suffered a running-out-of-time setback in Saturday’s 88-75 loss to Baylor at the Coliseum.

This was a winnable game for the Mountaineers (15-12, 7-7 Big 12). They had eked out a 66-64 win at Baylor on Jan. 28, with an opportunity to sweep the season’s series with the Bears (18-9, 6-8 Big 12).

Now Baylor leads the all-time series by 4-1.

Granted, 6-foot-4 guard Terry Henderson was unable to play because he was ill (flu). But WVU did manage to hold its own with other players for most of the game, with a 42-36 lead at halftime.

However, the outsized and outmanned Mountaineers failed to come up with a strong finish offensively or defensively that also haunted them in some other winnable games this campaign.

With about seven minutes remaining, in Saturday’s nip-and-tuck struggle, West Virginia trailed by only 67-65. But then the Bears went on a tear. They made 6 of 12 shots (50 percent) and 7 of 7 free throws (100 percent) to wind up on a decisive 21-10 run.

WVU seemingly couldn’t come up with stops when sorely needed.

Bob Huggins, the university’s veteran head coach, indicated after the game that he attributes the loss to a lack of commitment by the Mountaineers.

He said, “The frustrating thing is they scored every time. It’s been a steady diet of that.”

This year’s team also seems to be still trying to find some semblance of consistency as well as continuity. But it’s a young squad with less than the permitted number of scholarship players.

The lack of quality play-making also has been a problem for WVU at times.

With just four regular-season games left, this defeat was not only a blow to NCAA hopes but also for final placement in the Big 12 Conference standings.

All four teams at the bottom must play highly-seeded teams on the first day of the conference championship tournament.

It starts on March 12 in Kansas City, Mo.

Displaying its superiority Saturday before 11,843 fans, Baylor shot 54.2 percent from the field (32 of 59).

The Mountaineers shot only 32.1 percent in the second half (9 of 28) and 40.0 percent for the game (32 of 59).

The visitors also excelled from 3-point range (9 of 20, 45 percent) and from the foul line (71.4 percent, 15 of 21).

WVU shot 11 of 21 from 3-point range (52.4 percent), and in free throws (20 of 25, 80 percent).

Baylor had five scorers in double figures with balanced point-production. But West Virginia had just two. Eron Harris had a game-high 32 points and Juwan Staten had 16 points.

The teams were nearly even in rebounding, 34-31, with the edge to the Bears. Devin Williams had nine and Staten eight for WVU.

In addition to his scoring and rebounding, Staten dished out six of his team’s nine assists. The Bears had a total of 15 assists.