Baylor has already enjoyed a campaign to remember, but the 4th-ranked Bears know they still have plenty to prove when they square off against enigmatic West Virginia on Saturday afternoon in the Big 12 Conference regular-season finale for both teams in Morgantown, W.V.
The Bears head north after a thrilling 71-68 overtime win at home over Texas Tech on Monday. Jared Butler had a steal and hit two free throws with 11.6 seconds left in the extra period to seal the win for Baylor (26-3, 15-2 Big 12).
The win kept the Bears in the hunt for their first Big 12 championship. They need a win at West Virginia (20-10, 8-9) plus a loss by Kansas (27-3, 16-1) at Texas Tech on Saturday to share the title with the Jayhawks.
Devonte Bandoo, who scored a game-high 18 points, hit a 3-pointer from NBA range to tie the game and send it into overtime.
“I was told not to shoot it, but there was a lot of space,” Bandoo said. “I was like, ‘All right, you’re going to sag off me this much, I’m going to let it fly,’ and the ball went in. When I let it go, I knew it was going in. It was a big shot.”
Butler had 17 points for the Bears, and MaCio Teague, who drained a step-back 3-pointer to give Baylor a 69-65 lead with 1:13 left in overtime, finished with 14. The Bears won despite playing without forwards Mark Vital and Tristan Clark, both sidelined with injuries.
“These games right here are what makes a national champion,” Butler said. “We had to battle, went into overtime, shots aren’t falling. Sometimes, we just need to focus on the games we’re playing and executing now so that we can execute later.”
The Mountaineers look to finish the Big 12’s regular-season gauntlet with some added momentum following a 77-71 win at Iowa State on Tuesday. The victory was West Virginia’s first away from home since Jan. 6.
Miles McBride scored 17 points, including four free throws in the final 16 seconds, to help West Virginia overcame horrendous second-half shooting. The Mountaineers were just 7 of 25 (28 percent) from the floor after halftime but made 18 of 21 free throws in the second half.
“We let it slip away a little bit in the second half, but I think we did grow up a little bit,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “I think if this was two or three weeks ago, we would not have come back after we fell behind. It was a good team effort from a lot of different guys. We were a little tougher today than what we have been.”
Derek Culver scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds, with Taz Sherman adding 12 and Oscar Tshiebwe hitting for 11 points for the Mountaineers, who snapped a three-game losing streak.
“We’ve got to keep our head in it, keep getting better and we’re looking forward to playing Baylor,” Huggins said.
The victory gave West Virginia 20 for the ninth time in 13 years under Huggins. It’s his 30th 20-win campaign in 38 seasons as a collegiate coach.
–Field Level Media