UPDATING THE BEARS
After losing by 21 to WVU in their first meeting, the Bears won their next five games. They then went 2-4 over their next six, but two of those defeats were to Kansas. Another loss came on Saturday at Iowa State, which is certainly not a bad one. Put all that together, coupled with a natural desire to show that the first West Virginia game was an anomaly, and the Bears will be giving maximum effort and attention in their home finale on Monday.
Junior Johnathan Motley (6-10 230 lbs.) has been a human pogo stick for the Bears. He bounces around the court ceaselessly, and gathers 17.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He cleans up misses, averaging nearly four offensive rebounds per game, and is at the heart of a very athletic team. Transfer Manu Lecomte (5-11, 175 lbs.) has continued to grow over the course of the season, and is now the team's leading scorer (12.4) and 3-point shooter (65-157). However, he injured his ankle against Iowa State and did not return, making his status for tonight's game questionable.
Baylor's length and athleticism makes them very good defensively, where they hold opponents under 40% shooting from the field. Juco transfer Jo Lual-Acuil (7-0, 220 lbs.) anchors the defense at the rim, where he has blocked 79 shots. Familiar face Al Freeman (Jr., 6-3, 200 lbs.) averages 9.7 points, supported by Lual-Acuil's 9.3.
Ball handling has been something of an issue for the Bears, who have committed 383 turnovers this year. They had 29 in the loss at WVU, and that will definitely be a focal point for them as they, like WVU, look to lock up high seeds in both postseason tournaments.
Throw away the results from the first meeting between the Bears and Mountaineers. In fact, try to do a full disk drive wipe and delete it from existence.
|WVU (23-6 / 11-5) vs. Baylor (23-6 / 10-6)||Mon Feb 27||7:00 PM EST|
|Ferrell Center||Waco, TX||Series: BU 7-4|
|RPI: WVU - 26 BU - 8||TV: ESPNU||Sirius/XM/SXM: 81/81/81|
WVU might match up reasonably well against Baylor, especially when it comes to putting pressure on the ball, but it was clear that the Bears folded their tents after the Mountaineers pushed their way out to a big lead early in the second half. They aren't going to repeat that performance at home in Waco, especially on senior night, so expecting a similar result to the game in Morgantown simply isn't realistic.West Virginia played perhaps its best game of the season, and Baylor played its worst. That doesn't mean the Mountaineers can't win again, but it's not going to be the breeze that the first game was.
The Mountaineers will again figure to try to get action going up and down the court, and take advantage of harried play by Bear guards. Look for BU to do the opposite, and for them to try to feature Motley and Lual-Acuil inside. There, defensive rebounding for the Mountaineers will be vital, and that's an area that Baylor will hope to exploit. Opposing that, WVU will need to get better work on that end from Brandon Watkins and Sagaba Konate, and, if he plays, Maciej Bender. Each needs to get four or five boards, depending on their time on the court, and keep Motley from racking up second chance points.
WVU will again be without forward Esa Ahamd, and while that absence is a big hit, the Mountaineers should be at least a little more comfortable with their rotations and playing stints as he has missed the past two games. The Mountaineers that fill in that playing time, no matter their position, have to produce. WVU was able to get by without support across the board against TCU, but that won't be sufficient against Baylor. Look for Baylor to give help to their backcourt by using Motley and Ish Wainwright as big targets for high passes against the press.
Baylor backup T.J. Maston is seventh on the team in minutes played, but is taking great advantage of his time on the court. Per 40 minutes played, he averages 17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds.
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West Virginia is 13-6 all-time in the state of Texas, with all 19 of those games being played over the past five years.
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Baylor's ability to slow the game defensively has been one of its biggest keys to success this year. The Bears force teams into an average possession time of 18.5 seconds – ninth nationally. That has resulted in a number of forced and shot clock buzzer beating shot attempts.
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Tarik Phillip has WVU's top plus/minus rating at +363, according to the school. Supporting his time on the court is the fact that he's second on the team in assists per 40 minutes with 5.1. That's narrowly behind Jevon Carter's 5.2.