Then, on back-to-back possessions, the game began to unravel and send the Mountaineers on their way to a 10-point loss to the Bears at the Sprint Center Thursday.
Consecutive turnovers by WVU freshmen Daxter Miles and Jevon Carter prompted head coach Bob Huggins to throw his hands up onto his head in disbelief as he watched the Bears turn both turnovers into easy fast-break layups on the other end to get out to a five-point lead and never look back.
"We had the right game plan, but I just think they played harder than we did," a dejected Miles said after the game as he sat outside of his locker following the game. "We just made turnovers that we shouldn't have made and they converted on them."
It's the type of stuff that is bound to happen when you have to play without two senior guards and a handful of players who have never played in a major conference or NCAA tournament before, and it just happened at a time in which the Mountaineers just weren't able to recover.
Of West Virginia's seven players who played at least 15 minutes against Baylor Thursday, only Devin Williams had played in a conference tournament at the Division I level before. And after attacking Baylor as well as they did, the Mountaineers were obviously disappointed and frustrated with the way they played, but they were quick to say there was a silver lining that makes this season different from last.
There are still games left to be played.
"We see what we did wrong, we know how to correct it. Now we just have to perfect it and get better," said freshman forward Elijah Macon, who scored four points and grabbed five rebounds Thursday. "This is going to motivate us. We're not going to let this happen again in the NCAA tournament. Nobody likes to lose, especially like this where we know we could have done a few things to give us a better chance."
Even with the early exit in this year's tournament - the Mountaineers' fifth consecutive loss in a conference tournament since winning the Big East in 2010 and seventh postseason loss in a row overall - this young West Virginia team got some valuable experience of being thrown into the fire against a very talented Baylor team without its two leaders in a win or go home situation. That's the type of experience that will be huge for this group next week in the NCAA tournament, especially after giving Browne and Staten another week to rest up, get healed and be ready to return to action.
"This little bit of experience is going to mean a lot," Staten said. "Going from two seniors guards to having to start two freshmen guards, that's a lot of experience that they didn't have. It's just something they didn't have before."
This made this group hungrier - more eager than ever at this point to prove that they are as good as they have been all season long. After another postseason disappointment Thursday afternoon, there's a sense that there is plenty of unfinished business left to be taken care of before the 2014-15 season is in the books.
"It hurts a lot to lose like this in the first round because we feel like we haven't even made our footprint in the Big 12 yet," Williams said. "It just makes us want to keep going ... It makes us want to get better."