The No. 1 basketball team in the country visited Morgantown on Tuesday night and left with a bad taste in their mouth, something that’s becoming a bit of a routine now that WVU’s in the Big 12 Conference. No. 10 WVU 89, No. 1 BU 68.
The Baylor Bears strolled into Morgantown with their fresh, not-even-days-old No. 1 ranking, expecting to stall Bob Huggins’ menacing press defense and travel back to Waco feeling confident. Boy, were they wrong!
Nate Adrian led the way with 22 points and six rebounds, but it was a defensive effort from the team that helped propel the ‘Eers to victory. Jevon Carter had a team high five steals to go along with his 17 points. According to the numbers at NCAA.com, Jevon Carter ranks third in the nation in steals per game. And don’t think it’s just because of the fast-paced defense West Virginia attacks with; no other Mountaineer is in the top 50. Adrian ranks in the top 40 in offensive rebounds per game with just over three, but we’ll get into stat-heavy talk and rankings during awards season.
Sophomore Esa Ahmad scored eight points, and both Ahmad and Adrian recorded three steals for Huggins. Off the bench, Tarik Phillip did a little bit of everything; 11 points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. After an unusually bad start to the season from the free throw line (just 59 percent this year compared to 70 and 68 in the previous two), Phillip was a perfect four-for-four from the stripe against Baylor.
The Mountaineers had 15 steals and 6 blocks on the defensive end, and forced a total of 29 turnovers, their highest total during conference play this season. Baylor had three players tied for a team-high ten points, but shot a dreadful 28 percent from three as a team.
Baylor, the No. 1 team in the country (prior to playing West Virginia), only scored 68 points against the Mountaineers. That’s the lowest total of points scored against West Virginia during conference play this season. Either somebody made a mistake when they chose Baylor to be No. 1, or West Virginia needs to be considered among college basketball’s elite.
Not much recognition was given for the Mountaineers impressive handling of the previously undefeated No. 1 team in the country. The major network shows mentioned the game, but more in the sense of “another No. 1 lost, it’s January so who cares” though. I don’t have a problem with this thinking, but West Virginia controlled the game from the National Anthem until Country Roads rang out – that should count for something against a No. 1 at any point in the season.
West Virginia lost an early season NIT Tip-Off game to Temple and in overtime to Texas Tech just after the New Year, one that would’ve gone West Virginia’s way if not for missed free throws late. Aside from those two games, the Mountaineers are a perfect 15-0. Weekend road trips to Texas this Saturday and Kansas State next weekend will be nice opportunities for the ‘Eers to add to their growing resume. West Virginia still plays Kansas and Oklahoma twice, with a game at Baylor to top off their road schedule for the year. Don’t expect the Mountaineers to go away, either. They’re here to get in your face – and stay in your face – until the Madness ends.