With a little more than a minute to play, Brady Heslip nailed a three from the left wing to cut WVU’s lead to one point. It seemed that – once again – the Mountaineers would crumble down the stretch and leave the court with another close, agonizing defeat.
After Juwan Staten missed both free throws to keep WVU’s lead to one, Rico Gathers made one of two at the line to tie the game with 35 seconds to play.
It seemed like deja vu, to the Oklahoma State game a few weeks ago when Juwan State got the ball at the top of the key and missed a game-winning layup as time expired. But Staten went to his right, drove baseline and got a reverse layup to fall with a little more than three seconds to play to give WVU its first win against a team in the RPI top 100 this season.
Unlike other times this season, WVU was able to roll with each punch the Bears threw. With the exception of a 9-8 lead early, the closest Baylor was able to get was four ties throughout the later stretches of the game.
The Mountaineers came out strong, getting out to a 12-9 lead and going back and forth with the Bears for much of the first half.
Much like it has all season, West Virginia struggled to win the battle on the boards with Baylor as BU's talented frontcourt was able to get out to a big rebounding advantage from the start. But while it struggled to rebound the ball and win the battle inside, WVU stepped up defensively, forcing Baylor to play sloppier than usual.
The Bears, who entered the game averaging more than 12 turnovers per game, turned the ball over 11 times in the game's first 20 minutes. Those 11 turnovers resulted in 15 crucial points for the Mountaineers as they went to the locker room with a 36-33 lead.
WVU used a balanced scoring attack to get off to their strong start Tuesday night. Eight of the nine players who saw the floor for the Mountaineers in the first half made their way into the scoring column and three players - Staten, Terry Henderson and Remi Dibo - scored eight points apiece to lead the way.
Baylor refused to go away, and threatened to tie the game up early in the second half after a dunk by Rico Gathers got the home crowd fired up in Waco. Isaiah Austin had a chance to tie it with a nice look from beyond the arc, but missed and WVU turned that into an opportunity for back-to-back transition layups to bring its lead back to seven points.
But over the course of the next three minutes, a 7-0 run brought things back to an even tie with a little more than 12 minutes to play after Cory Jefferson made a jumper just outside of the lane to make it 47-47.
Foul trouble seemed to back WVU into a corner as the final minutes ticked off the clock. With Baylor's three best post players all playing well, the Mountaineer frontcourt was going to have its hands full anyway. But with Devin Williams, Kevin Noreen and Brandon Watkins all in foul trouble early in the second half, it made things even tougher to neutralize the Bears' talented and athletic big men.
Watkins fouled out with more than nine minutes to play and, at that time, Noreen and Williams had four and three fouls, respectively.
In those last few minutes, West Virginia consistently looked to Staten to lead the offense and make plays in crunch time. The junior responded, finishing with 15 points and nine assists while committing just one turnovers.
Dibo came off the bench to score 13 points and Harris and Henderson reached double figures, scoring 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Gathers led the way for the Bears, scoring eight points and grabbing 12 rebounds.