In a mentally exhausting game, No. 6 West Virginia did not pull off a remarkable upset against No. 3 Baylor on Tuesday; night as the Mountaineers are now 0-4 against AP Top 5 teams this season.
That was a tough game to watch late because there were many chances for West Virginia to close the door on the Bears. After this game, I was disappointed, but I wasn’t dismayed about WVU’s Big 12 Conference Tournament hopes or its NCAA Tournament hopes. This is a great WVU team that can make a significant run, but Baylor is just great this year.
I think the loss can go towards not being able to do the little things late in the game. Twice in this game on defense WVU forced a turnover, but instead of slowing down and grabbing the ball, the Mountaineers tried to push the tempo. Both times, West Virginia turned it over and the Bears converted on the offensive end.
On average this season, Baylor only turns the ball over 12 times a game. That makes it imperative for West Virginia to take advantage of every mistake Baylor makes.
The biggest shocker of the game was the free throw shooting. West Virginia shot 28-of-32 (88%) from the free throw. That was one of the most impressive showings West Virginia has ever had at the free throw line and the Mountaineers still lost the game.
WVU may have only missed four free throws for the entire game, but a crucial free throw was missed with 13 seconds left. The Mountaineers were already up by one with Miles McBride at the line. He missed the first and made the second free throw to extend WVU’s lead to 81-79.
Eleven seconds later, Baylor’s Jared Butler soared down the floor right past McBride — who was guarding him across half court — and tied the game. That’s just the little things and head coach Bob Huggins said it in the postgame press conference best.
“The reality is, down the stretch, we haven’t made free throws,” Huggins said. “We don’t make them down the stretch. We went 1-for-2. They (Baylor) made their free throws.”
Baylor only shot 9-of-14 (64%) at the free throw line, but in overtime, Baylor went 4-of-5 (80%) and sealed the game.
These are the little things. You can go the whole game and make every free throw, but if you can’t make free throws at critical times, you won’t win games. Baylor did that, West Virginia didn’t.
Huggins made the best comparison between the Mountaineers and Baylor following the game.
“We played today against men, those were men,” Huggins said. “They were more physical than us."
West Virginia is a great team, but there is a gap between WVU’s national championship opportunity and Baylor’s national championship opportunity right now. However, the Mountaineers went pound-for-pound with the Bears and nearly beat one of the best teams in college basketball in Morgantown on Tuesday night.