Baylor head coach Scott Drew yells to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Conference tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, March 12, 2015. (AP
Orlin Wagner
March 12, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) West Virginia played without leading scorer Juwan Staten, out with a knee injury. Gary Browne spent the entire game watching as well, his sprained ankle still tender.

The Mountaineers still took Baylor down to the wire Thursday.

Ultimately, attrition got the better of the Mountaineers. Devin Williams scored 18 points for them before fouling out late, and the Bears went on a big finishing kick for an 80-70 victory in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals.

''They could have played,'' Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said of his ailing guards, ''but they weren't 100 percent and I didn't think it was worth reinjuring themselves. No, it wasn't worth it. It wasn't the right thing to do by them, let me put it that way.''

Huggins does expect Staten and Browne to be back for the NCAA Tournament.

''They're both planning and are very excited about playing next week,'' he said.

Taurean Prince scored 18 points off the bench, Royce O'Neale added 16 and Rico Gathers had 14 points for the fourth-seeded Bears (24-8), who advanced to play the top-seeded Kansas in the semifinals.

Jaysean Paige finished with 18 points for West Virginia. Daxter Miles Jr. had 11.

''That's the great thing about playing in the Big 12,'' Baylor coach Scott Drew said. ''If you're going to win, they're probably going to be close games. A lot of different styles.''

West Virginia (23-9) led 62-61 with just over 7 minutes to go, but the Bears turned up the defense, forcing back-to-back turnovers and converting easy baskets at the other end. By the time Gathers made two foul shots with 2:22 left, the Bears led 73-66 - their biggest to that point.

The fifth-seeded Mountaineers couldn't get much closer down the stretch, keeping them winless in three trips to the Big 12 tournament. They've been one-and-done their first three seasons.

''We didn't finish around the rim the way we need to finish around the rim,'' Huggins said. ''They made some key shots and we didn't''

The game was a contrast in styles, both of them effective.

Baylor employed its unique 1-3-1 zone defense, trying to bog down the Mountaineers into a plodding, half-court game. West Virginia countered with its ''Press Virginia'' defense, a frenzied full-court attack designed to force turnovers and speed things up.

Different ways of going about things. Just about even results.

In the first half, both teams went 13 of 27 from the field. The Bears had a big advantage in the paint and at the foul line, while West Virginia had a big edge from beyond the arc. Baylor led 38-36 at the break.

''We kind of backed it off,'' Huggins said of the press. ''We were trying to guard `em and we didn't guard `em very well, but we were trying to guard `em better and not turn `em loose.''

The game remained tight throughout the second half, each team going on a run that threatened to take control. Baylor went first, building a 55-49 edge on a basket by Prince. The Mountaineers countered with an 11-2 charge that gave them a 60-57 lead with under 10 minutes to go.

Both coaches frantically called timeouts to slow momentum down the stretch. Then foul trouble hit, Williams fouling out for West Virginia and Prince following him for Baylor.

The Bears were able to draw away with a couple of key baskets in the closing minutes, beating the Mountaineers for the fourth straight time.

''The first two times, it was pretty - those were tough games, too. We just kind of caught a run at the end, the very end,'' Prince said. ''They're a tough team, they play very hard, tough team to outrebound, but we did what we needed to do tonight.''

BALANCED SCORING

Lester Medford also had 10 points for the Bears, giving them four players in double figures scoring. Johnathan Motley added nine points and Ish Wainwright had seven.

TIP-INS

West Virginia: The Mountaineers, the national leader in steals, only forced 10 turnovers against Baylor. ... Tarik Phillip was held to two points on 1-for-6 shooting.

Baylor: The Bears improved to 7-4 against ranked teams this season. ... Baylor still has not allowed an opponent to score more than 75 points this season. ... Kenny Chery was just 1 of 7 from the field for five points, but he also had seven assists and only two turnovers.

UP NEXT

West Virginia heads home to await their NCAA Tournament seeding on Sunday.

Baylor will play Kansas in the semifinals on Friday night.

You May Like