No. 3 Baylor seeks to regroup as No. 6 West Virginia awaits

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As Baylor tries to regain the successful form it displayed before a lengthy COVID-19-related layoff, the challenges continue to mount with an eager West Virginia squad awaiting.

Looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season, the visiting No. 3 Bears will try to keep the No. 6 Mountaineers from a fourth consecutive victory on Tuesday night in a Big 12 contest at Morgantown, W.Va.

After struggling with lowly Iowa State during a 77-72 win on Feb. 23 in its first game back following a three-week stint in COVID-19 protocols, league-leading Baylor (18-1, 10-1 Big 12) fell 71-58 at No. 17 Kansas on Saturday. A Bears squad that averaged 86.4 points and led the nation with a 43.2 shooting percentage from 3-point range during a school-best 18-0 start, set season lows for points and field-goal percentage (34.8) against the Jayhawks.

Baylor also was outrebounded 48-28 on Saturday, and is just 14-of-51 from 3-point range over the past two games.

“It’s a chemistry game. It’s a timing game,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to make shots. When the legs go, it’s hard to make 3s.

“We’ll get back to getting back in that rhythm. … Hopefully, to where we get back to where we were condition-wise, chemistry-wise. Hopefully, we’ll be a fresher, better team on the back end.”

Despite Saturday’s setback, Baylor needs only one victory in its final three games to win its first regular-season conference title since 1950.

“We’ll be excited to play,” added Drew, whose program last lost consecutive games against ranked teams in March 2019. “We love the opportunity to get back on the court.”

Though second-place West Virginia (17-6, 10-4) is 0-3 against top-5 teams this season, it went 6-1 overall in February and is coming off a 65-43 home rout of Kansas State for a third consecutive victory.

COVID-19 issues forced the postponement of the three scheduled — and rescheduled — meetings between these teams this season. It appears they finally will play on Tuesday.

“This is a one-game, kind of, heavyweight fight,” West Virginia guard Jordan McCabe said. “It’s what you live for. It’s (why) you come to West Virginia. For (these) games to play in.

“We’re not afraid of (Baylor). Or, shying away from the fact that our goal is to go in there and win on Tuesday.”

A win on Tuesday would move coach Bob Huggins one step closer to joining the exclusive 900-win club. He has 898 wins. North Carolina coach Roy Williams became the fourth coach to win 900 Division I games when the Tar Heels notched a 78-70 win over No. 11 Florida State on Saturday.

Williams joined Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim and Bob Knight as members of the 900-win club.

Back on the court, the Mountaineers are shooting 43.1 percent this season and held each of their past two opponents to fewer than 70 points. West Virginia held Kansas State to 15-of-51 shooting and forced 18 turnovers.

Baylor star Jared Butler (16.4 points per game, 4.9 assists per game) scored 21 in each of the two meetings with West Virginia last season, but was held to a season-low five points while missing six of seven 3-point attempts on Saturday. Teammate Davion Mitchell (13.4 points per game) totaled 28 points in the two games against the Mountaineers in 2019-20.

Miles McBride averages a team-leading 15.5 points for the Mountaineers, but has totaled 16 in the past two games. Sean McNeil, meanwhile, has scored at least 16 in four of the past five. Teammate Emmitt Matthews Jr. averages 7.7 points, but scored 18 in last season’s win over Baylor.

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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