If you’re looking for a beautiful version of college basketball, with offense galore and flashy, highlight-reel play, Saturday’s dustup between No. 1 Baylor and No. 14 West Virginia in Waco, Texas, might not be your cup of tea.
But if physical, gritty defense between two teams that never take a step back is to your liking, then this contest, another in the continuing gauntlet of Big 12 slugfests, will be right up your alley.
The Bears (22-1, 11-0) have reeled off a program-record 21 straight wins thanks to non-stop, in-your-face defense and a mix of players that have grasped coach Scott Drew’s take-no-prisoners style and run with it.
Baylor’s latest win, a 52-45 victory on the road at Texas on Monday, showcased its defense in a game when the Bears’ offense also struggled. It marked the fewest points Texas scored on its home court since a 51-43 loss to Kansas State on Jan. 8, 1983.
“It takes a team to win, and each and every night you have different people step up,” Drew told reporters after the game. “I just know when we share the ball out there, we’re at our best. And we shared it better in the second half, for sure.”
MaCio Teague (11) and Devonte Bandoo (10) were Baylor’s lone double-figure scorers in the win as the Bears shot just 34 percent from the floor.
“We have a lot of moving parts and a lot of people who have come together from a lot of different places out there,” Baylor guard Jared Butler said. “That just shows how special it is. It’s not about talent, it’s not about special abilities, it’s just about being the people we are. That’s why things have been going so well.”
West Virginia (18-6, 6-5) jumps from the frying pan into the fire, heading to Waco after a 58-49 loss at home to Kansas on Wednesday. The third-ranked Jayhawks held West Virginia scoreless over the remaining 5:07 to roar to the comeback win and sweep the season series between the two teams.
The Mountaineers had won their first 12 games at home this season prior to Wednesday’s loss and have now dropped two straight contests.
Oscar Tshiebwe led West Virginia with 14 points and nine rebounds while Jordan McCabe was the only other Mountaineer player to reach double figures with 10.
As has been the case for most of the season, the Mountaineers struggled from the floor, shooting just 31.7 percent. In their last two defeats to Oklahoma and Kansas, West Virginia has missed a combined 99 of its 142 shot attempts, with 32 of those coming from near-point-blank range.
“You aren’t going to win when you don’t make shots,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “We didn’t make shots inside, we didn’t make shots outside, and we turned the ball over at the most inopportune times.
“They surround the bigs because they know we are going to throw it in there because we can’t make a perimeter shot,” Huggins added. “You’ve got to make shots, man.”
This will be the first meeting of the year between the two teams. Baylor and West Virginia will play to end the regular season in Morgantown on March 7.
–Field Level Media