By Chris Jackson
Despite not finding much success offensively, West Virginia simply found a way to win.
The Mountaineers (15-1, 4-0 Big 12) shot just 31.1 percent from the field, but forced 21 turnovers, which is tied for a season-high for Baylor (11-5, 1-3 Big 12), earning a 57-54 victory at the Coliseum to win their national-best 15th straight game ahead of Saturday’s top-10 tilt at No. 8 Texas Tech on Saturday.
“Maybe we didn’t shoot the ball extremely well tonight, but one thing we can control is just our effort,” said WVU sophomore guard Chase Harler. “If we bring a good effort, we’re always going to be in the game and it kind of showed tonight.”
With the game tied at 51-51, senior guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles were at the forefront of key plays down the stretch. After Miles committed a costly turnover with 1:17 remaining, he and Carter did not give up on the play.
Both chased down Baylor redshirt freshman guard/forward Mark Vital at the other end. Carter tipped the ball out of Vital’s hands and Miles came up with the ball.
Then Carter --- who although made just one of his six shots up to this point and finished with 8 points on 2-of-7 shooting --- drilled a pull-up 3 to put the Mountaineers up 54-51 and give them the lead for good.
“I thought he could have got more and better shots,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. “He played sideways too much…But nobody had any problem with him taking that shot.”
Sophomore forward Sagaba Konate pulled down a key rebound in the waning moments to help seal the win, too.
Carter missed a free throw with his team clinging to a 54-51 lead with 23 seconds left. It was a chance for Baylor to snatch the ball and come down with a chance to tie the game, but instead Konate grabbed the offensive rebound and Miles then converted one of his two free throw attempts to extend the advantage to 55-51
Although he went 3-of-14 shooting against a difficult matchup in Baylor 7-foot senior forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr., he hauled in 12 rebounds and was a force p on the defensive end, recording a career-high seven blocks following the Oklahoma matchup over the weekend when he swatted five shots.
“Sags makes a huge play,” Huggins said. “You’ve got to contribute. That’s what it is. Somebody has to make a play when it counts.”
Sophomore guard Chase Harler was the “x-factor” in Miles’ words. He made a number of hustle plays on defense. He finished with 7 points on 2-of-3 shooting, his highest scoring total since the Nov. 20 win over Long Beach State, adding three rebounds and two steals.
“He played hard,” Miles said. “I think we fed off his energy towards the end. We needed that.”