MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After three postponements this season, No. 6 West Virginia and No. 3 Baylor finally faced one another Tuesday evening in the WVU Coliseum. The game lived up to the anticipation, needing more than just regulation to decide the winner.
Baylor (19-1, 11-1 Big 12) ultimately survived the WVU (17-7, 10-5) upset attempt and escaped the Coliseum with a 95-89 overtime victory. The win cliched Baylor’s first-ever Big 12 regular season men’s basketball championship.
The game started as poorly as possible for West Virginia as the Mountaineers missed their first four shots and Baylor shot out to an early 12-2 lead. WVU spent most of the first part of the game playing catchup, as Baylor’s lead hovered around double-digits. Senior Taz Sherman provided a spark off the bench for WVU, scoring eight straight points during one stretch and finishing the first half with a team-high 12 points.
With six minutes left in the half, something changed for the Bears’ offense. A dunk by Mark Vital put Baylor up 32-23 but after that, the Bears missed their next 11 shot attempts. In that time, West Virginia put together an 8-point run and was trailing just 32-31 with one second left before halftime. Baylor put that second to good use, with Jared Butler hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give BU a 35-31 lead at the break.
West Virginia came out firing in the second half, outscoring Baylor 19 to 8 to start. Junior Sean McNeil made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points during that stretch. WVU took its first lead of the game with 15:23 to play on a McNeil 3-pointer, his fourth bucket in a row at the time. Junior Emmitt Matthews punctuated a 10-point WVU run with a fastbreak dunk that put the Mountaineers up 50-43 and forced Baylor coach Scott Drew to take a timeout.
Following that timeout, Baylor went on a 12 to 4 run, but could only retake the lead for a single possession before WVU took it right back. The Mountaineers scored just enough throughout the rest of the second half to hold onto its slim lead as Baylor continued to make shots. The Bears lived by the 3-pointer, shooting 13 of 31 (41.9%) from beyond the arc in the contest.
Baylor tied the game and then took the lead on consecutive 3-pointers by Matthew Mayer, who scored 10 straight points, making the score 77-76 with 1:41 left to play. Junior forward Derek Culver made two free throws and drew a charge call to give WVU an 80-79 lead and possession with 52 seconds left to play.
Sophomore Miles “Deuce” McBride was blocked on WVU’s possession but freshman Jalen Bridges blocked Baylor’s Mark Vital on the other end to preserve the Mountaineers’ lead. McBride made 1 of 2 ensuing free throws to give WVU an 81-79 lead with 13 seconds left. WVU’s defense allowed Butler to score an easy layup to tie the game at 81. Three failed in-bounds plays left the game tied as time expired, sending the teams into overtime.
West Virginia shot just 1 of 5 in overtime but made 5 of 6 on free throws. Sherman was able to draw a foul on Butler, his fifth of the game, with one minute left. Baylor led 90-89 with possession and 37 seconds left when WVU started intentionally fouling. Baylor made all four of its late-game free throws to take a 94-89 lead with 18 seconds remaining. WVU was unable to score another point, suffering the five-point loss.
Sherman finished with a team-high 26 points on 9 of 14 shooting while McNeil finished with 18 points with four treys. McBride scored 19 points with eight assists and senior Gabe Osabuohien had four rebounds with two blocks and two steals. Culver had nine points and eight rebounds. WVU shot 28 of 32 from the free-throw line in the game.
Butler scored 25 points to lead Baylor while Davion Mitchell finished with 20. Vital finished with seven points and eight rebounds. Mayer finished with 18 points with three 3-pointers.
Tuesday’s game will be the only regular-season meeting between the Mountaineers and Bears this season. West Virginia will continue its homestand this week with, hosting TCU on Thursday and Oklahoma State on Saturday.