West Virginia's Pressure-Packed Plan Come To Fruition Against No. 1 Baylor

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia had a series of goals for its pressure against Baylor, none more so than forcing the ball into the hands of players who don't traditionally handle it.

That's a common approach for the Mountaineers, and a film review of the No. 1 Bears practically demanded it. As exceptional as Baylor's length and rebounding prowess was, that came at a price. Because even with a three-guard starting line-up, head coach Scott Drew hand only two true ball handlers on the floor capable of navigating WVU's press. One was point guard Manu Lecomte, who entered with a better than two-to-one assist to turnover ration. The other was shooting guard Al Freeman, a prime outside scoring threat who would prefer to receive the ball on the perimeter rather than earn his way there through pressure.

That left Ishmail Wainright as a third option. The issue for Baylor was that though the 6-5, 235-pounder showed a remarkable 13 turnovers entering against 57 assists, his playing style wasn't conducive to dealing with West Virginia's type of pressure. Wainright has solid court vision, and is as unselfish as they come. But he lacks the pure burst on the floor to run to certain spots, and he doesn't handle effectively enough when matched against Esa Ahmad to truly be effective outside of the halfcourt setting.

The result was an avalanche of turnovers, starting with 15 over the first 12 minutes of the game and ending with a season-worst 29 for the Bears, who became the only power five team thus far in the season to turn the ball over that many times in a single game. The mark not only set a record for the most the Mountaineers have ever forced in their 82 games of Big 12 play, it was also just the 11th time since 2000 that West Virginia has forced at least that many. Here's the kicker: Five of those games have come this season alone.

"We were trying to make their point guard not dribble the ball as much and make everybody else dribble it and it worked," forward Brandon Watkins said. "They couldn't handle the pressure and they were throwing balls everywhere. We didn't think the outcome was going to be like that, but we played hard and they got tired at the end. We just got it done."

Sign up for BlueGoldNews.com!
Why join?

Lecomte finished with five turnovers and just two assists, while Wainright had six turnovers, meaning he committed almost half of his previous season total in one game. In all, seven BU players had at least one turnover.

"This team on film had been very impressive," Drew said. "In person, it's definitely the best pressing team coach Huggins has had. Things we have done in the past that were successful weren't, and I think they have improved their press. They've gotten a lot more effective with it and just make you feel uneasy and uncomfortable. For us to have 29 turnovers, if you would have said before the game you're going to have 29, I wouldn't have believed you. They just took us out of everything."

At one point, Drew turned to a trick he had used against Oklahoma State, inserting additional guards in Wendell Mitchell and Jake Lindsey to try and provide a spark, as they did in the comeback against the Cowboys. But Mitchell committed a quick turnover, then Lecomte threw the ball away when none of the players came back to help just before the 12-minute mark. The Mountaineers smelled blood, and ahead 57-45, scored 19 of the next 24 points to open a 76-50 lead on Jevon Carter's fade away jumper with 5:43 left. There were five turnovers in as many minutes at one point during the stretch.

"We know teams are going to make runs, especially good teams like that one," said Watkins, who hit a timely 5-of-6 from the field for 11 points, including a dunk on a run out off a Tarik Phillip steal. "We just tell everybody to stay in it, keep making rotations, keep pressure on the ball and good things will happen. Everybody had a great practice this week and everybody has been great in the gym practicing hard. It shows we can do it. We just have to work on being consistent. That's the only thing. If we can keep doing this game in and game out, then I don't feel like people can beat us."


Mountaineers Daily Top Stories