The table tilted back-and-forth — but by the final buzzer, the ball rolled in favor of the Bears.
No. 5 Baylor survived West Virginia in a Big 12 game of runs in Morgantown on Tuesday 77-68. The lead changed hands five times thoughout the contest, with West Virginia holding the lead with as little as eight minutes left in the game.
The final run of the game, however, was made by the Bears.
Baylor took the early advantage as Matthew Mayer led the Bears on a massive run in the first half. Runs of 11 and 10 points put Baylor in front by as much as 16.
Any semblance of momentum went away in the matter of minutes, however, as Malik Curry, Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman gave WVU a 14-point swing — by the halftime break, West Virginia was down by just four.
McNeil, Sherman and Jalen Bridges came out of the locker room firing, lifting the Mountaineers in front of the Bears five minutes into the second half.
Curry, however, was the surprising star for the Mountaineers. The guard added a team-high 19 points, including a much-needed 10 in the second half to keep West Virginia fighting for the lead.
“He has really competed. I think he has turned it up in practice. He is really good with getting the ball to the basket,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “That’s what makes it more frustrating when he gets it out the rim, which he does quite frequently, and he isn’t going to make over all those bigs. If he gets it over them and on the rim, those guys who went to block a shot are no longer there to rebound, and we still can’t rebound it and score.”
His contributions weren’t enough to negate LJ Cryer’s offensive output for Baylor, however. He led the game with 25 points, including five three-pointers while 16 of his points came in the second half.
Cryer’s second half boost helped the Bears get back out in front by double digits as they pieced together some multi-bucket runs.
WVU’s loss was defined by miscues and dry spells. The Mountaineers especially had trouble in the paint — they made just seven of their 22 layups, including a stretch of five straight missed layups over the course of two possessions as the game was split by one possession. In fact, that stretch was the tail-end of an 11-shot dry spell for WVU.
“We hurt ourselves. We continually stub our toe when you miss an enormous amount of one-footers and two-footers,” Huggins said.
As a team, WVU made 39 percent of its shots, including 33 percent from three-point range. Baylor made shot 47 percent from the field and 44 percent from deep.
Mayer added 20 points and five three-pointers for Baylor, while Adam Flagler chipped in another 14 points. Flo Thamba led the game with eight rebounds.
Sherman was right behind Curry with 18 points and McNeil added 17 to round out WVU’s double-digit scorers.
Baylor earns its first win after a two-game skid, improving to 16-2 on the year and 4-2 in the Big 12. West Virginia takes its second straight loss, slipping to 13-4 overall and 2-3 in the league.
WVU next travels to Lubbock, Texas to face Texas Tech on Saturday. Tip-off is set for noon ET.