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West Virginia Loses Sixth Straight as No. 8 Baylor Holds On, 81-77

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Photo: Kelsie LeRose / WVSN

In the second matchup between West Virginia and No. 8 Baylor, the Bears were able to come back down double digits to hand the Mountaineers their sixth straight loss, 81-77.

With 19:49 left in the second half, the Bears (19-3, 7-2 Big 12) faced their largest deficit of the night, trailing 41-31. Behind James Akinjo and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, BU was able to come back and hold on to the lead in the final stages.

Taz Sherman could not be stopped on Monday night. Sherman got the ball in isolation and shoot three’s off the dribble. The fifth-year senior finished with a career high 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field and 6-of-11 from three. Sherman also had two rebounds and three assists. Unfortunately for Sherman, the guard had to leave the game with three minutes left in the game after getting hit in the jaw. Sherman did not return.

Sherman led the West Virginia (13-8, 2-6 Big 12) offense to one of their best performances on the offside end of the season. As a team, the Mountaineers shot 54 percent from the field, making 11 three’s. When WVU was missing the occasional shot, they were getting the big stop on the defensive end. West Virginia allowed 17 offensive rebounds, which resulted in 24 second-chance points for the Bears.

Gabe Osabuohien found a cutting Sean McNeil to extend the WVU lead to seven with about eight minutes remaining in the game. Osabuohien once again had a great impact for West Virginia. Everyone knows what the Ontario native does on defense, but Osabuohien was running some of the offense, finding open teammates with the extra pass. Once Sherman left the game, Osabuohien played as a point forward,helping the Mountaineers try to adjust without their leading scorer.

Baylor’s James Akinjo kept the Bears in the game, not letting West Virginia run away with it. Akinjo missed the first matchup between the two on Jan. 18, but make his impact known on Monday. The Arizona transfer recorded 25 points on 7-of-17 from the field.

A deep 3-pointer by Seth Wilson at the first half buzzer sent West Virginia into the half with a 39-31 lead. Wilson’s three capped off a 16-1 run in the final 4:31 in the first half. WVU head coach Bob Huggins called a rare timeout, leading to a great run after the timeout. Multiple three’s by Sherman and Sean McNeil sent West Virginia into the locker room with an eight-point lead.

Just minutes before tip off in Waco, Baylor’s basketball program announced that leading scorer LJ Cryer and starter Adam Flagler will both miss the game against West Virginia on Monday night due to injury. Cryer has been dealing with foot soreness and Flagler sustained a knee injury. Cryer leads the Bears in scoring, averaging 13.9 points per game. Flagler has started 20 games for BU this season, putting up 12.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

Notable scorers for West Virginia were Sherman (29), McNeil (16) and Bridges (8).

West Virginia will have a few days to breathe and reflect, until they host No. 14 Texas Tech, in Morgantown. Tipoff between the Mountaineers and Red Raiders is set for 2 p.m. inside the WVU Coliseum. The game will be covered by ESPN.

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Ethan Bock is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in journalism at WVU. He currently is an intern with the Final Fourcast podcast. Ethan has covered WVU football and men’s basketball for the last year. He is from Cincinnati, Ohio.

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