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No. 5 Baylor Rallies Past WVU, Avoiding Upset, 77-68



Photo: Julia Mellett / WVSN

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When No. 5 Baylor came into Morgantown on its longest losing streak since 2019 and without its leading scorer, it seemed as if West Virginia would take advantage. Unfortunately, the Bears rallied at the end of the game, winning, 77-68.

Baylor (16-2, 4-2 Big 12) went on an 17-9 run in the final five minutes of the game.

Baylor was without leading scorer James Akinjo and freshman Jeremy Sochan due to injuries. Both players were listed as day-to-day by head coach Scott Drew on Monday. Akinjo and Sochan both warmed up but didn’t get into the game. Akinjo has been great for the Bears in his first season in Waco, leading the team in scoring with 13.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 5.7 assists. Sochan is a 6-foot-9 freshman who has been playing his role well for Drew so far. Sochan is averaging 7.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists through 15 games. BU guard LJ Cryer replaced Akinjo in the starting lineup and led the team in scoring with 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field, making 5 three’s.

Back-to-back turnovers by West Virginia (13-4, 2-3 Big 12) early on lead to dunks by Baylor’s Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Matthew Mayer, and started a 21-3 Baylor run. Baylor led 30-14. Dead silence in the Coliseum. Mayer, who scored 18 points in the matchup last season at the Coliseum, finished with 20 points: a career-high.

The silence didn’t last for long. WVU’s Malik Curry and Sean McNeil started the run by making a couple of free-throws and jump shots. A McNeil three erupted the crowd, followed by 3 free-throws by Taz Sherman. A transition layup by McNeil concluded a 14-0 first half run by West Virginia, resulting in a timeout by Baylor. McNeil finished with 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting.

A drive to the basket by Jalen Bridges in the second half gave West Virginia its first lead of the game since the early stages of the first half. Bridges, who has started to find himself as of late, finished with seven points on 3-of-12 shooting.

Once again, the Mountaineers shot well from the free-throw line: 13-of-16 (81 percent). WVU came into Tuesday’s game No. 300 in the country in free-throw shooting, after being literally one of the worst teams in the country in percentage.

Sophomore forward Seny Ndiaye received playing time early on in the game, as the Mountaineers needed an interior presence to combat a gritty Baylor team. Ndiaye had his opportunity to shine and make a statement, but got in foul trouble with two fouls. Ndiaye didn’t get back into the game.

Notable scorers for WVU were Curry (19), Sherman (18), and McNeil (17).

West Virginia will now head to Lubbock, Texas to avoid a three-game losing streak and take on No. 18 Texas Tech. The Mountaineers and Red Raiders are set to tip off at 12 p.m. EST on Jan. 22.

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