Rico Gathers stars as Baylor routs West Virginia in Big 12 road test
The main thing holding No. 19 Baylor back this season has been its road performance. The Bears came into Saturday's matchup against No. 15 West Virginia with a 1-3 Big 12 road record, their lone win being an overtime victory over conference doormat TCU.
So when the game in Morgantown opened with Baylor being forced to take a timeout 22 seconds in after failing to set itself up against the Mountaineers' vaunted press, it looked like it could be another long day.
The Bears roared back by going on a 23-1 run over the next seven minutes, silencing the WVU Coliseum crowd of 12,783 and grabbing a hold on the game they would never let go as they romped to an 87-69 win.
Even after West Virginia finally broke the early run with a free throw by Devin Williams and then forced back-to-back turnovers, Baylor never took its foot off the pedal.
Junior forward Rico Gathers was at the center of it all, notching a double-double in the first half alone to help the Bears race out to a 46-30 halftime lead. His thunderous dunk here was part of a three-point play that announced his dominating presence in the game.
Gathers would finish with 17 points and 16 rebounds, and over his last three games, the 6-foot-8 junior has grabbed rebound totals of 15, 17 and 16.
Baylor's length was a problem for the Mountaineers all day, constantly interrupting the flow as West Virginia tried to find itself on offense. The Mountaineers were able to use their high-energy defense to force 19 turnovers, but it was minimized by the 16 they committed themselves and the 36.4 percent they shot from the floor for the game.
Both teams knew going in that rebounding would be key -- Baylor leads the country in grabbing 44 percent of their misses, while West Virginia is fourth at 41 percent. And while West Virginia was able to grab an impressive 18 offensive rebounds, Baylor out-rebounded them overall 43 to 35.
As impressive as Gathers was, Mountaineers sophomore forward Devin Williams had himself a game as well, pouring in 20 points and 15 boards. But Williams didn't quite have the support around him that Gathers did. Five different Bears scored in double figures, including Royce O'Neale (15 points), Taurean Prince (15 points) Kenny Chery (11 points) and Al Freeman (11 points).
The victory shows Baylor can do something that seemed a lot more suspect a week ago -- win on the road in Big 12 play. But several big tests away from home still remain, including games at No. 8 Kansas, No. 11 Iowa State and No. 25 Texas.
For the Mountaineers, it's their second straight loss after falling by 19 at Oklahoma last week. West Virginia has shown it can handle the lower half of the conference -- the likes of TCU, Texas Tech and Kansas State -- but will need more than its earlier home win over Oklahoma to stay in the Big 12 hunt.