West Virginia destroyed Baylor by 21 points in the teams' first matchup this season by forcing 29 turnovers. It appeared as if disaster was in store for the Bears after they announced point guard Manu Lecomte wouldn't play in Monday's Big 12 rematch.
Johnathan Motley and the rest of the Baylor players didn't stick to the script and defended home court with a 71-62 victory over No. 10 West Virginia.
The Mountaineers looked to be cruising toward another victory when they held a 49-41 lead with less than 10 minutes left. However, No. 11 Baylor pounded it down low to Motley, capitalized on multiple Al Freeman threes down the stretch and finished with a 30-13 spurt.
Motley and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. led the way for the victorious Bears:
|Baylor's Monday Leaders|
|Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.||11||10||0||1||5-of-7|
Baylor still turned it over 18 times but moved to 24-6 overall and 11-6 in the conference, snapping a skid that saw it go 1-3 in its previous four. It dominated on the boards with a 43-23 rebounding advantage and held West Virginia to 37.3 percent shooting from the field.
The Mountaineers dropped to 23-7 overall (11-6 conference) and could have used their second-leading scorer Esa Ahmad, who was out with a back injury, per Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Jevon Carter led the way for West Virginia with 18 points and nine rebounds.
West Virginia draws the defensive headlines with its Press Virginia full-court strategy, but it was Baylor's defense—which checked in at No. 8 in Ken Pomeroy's pace-adjusted efficiency rankings—that set the early tone. The Bears jumped out to a 12-3 lead, and West Virginia started 1-of-9 from the field.
However, the Mountaineers responded with a 15-3 run and were finally able to set up their press following baskets.
Neither offense completely found its footing in the first half, with West Virginia shooting 35.7 percent and Baylor countering at 40.9, but the Mountaineers found some success in the paint and built a 30-28 advantage by intermission.
West Virginia's Nathan Adrian picked up his third foul in the opening minutes of the second half, so the Bears turned to Motley down low. He answered with eight quick points and multiple dunks, one of which Baylor captured:
Baylor Basketball @BaylorMBB
📸 Mot throws down the reverse slam. #SicWVU 🏀 https://t.co/lQWPIWMj5e2017-2-28 01:15:34
Despite Motley's individual burst, the Mountaineers created temporary separation by attacking the rim and avoiding contested perimeter shots against the Bears' strong defense. It helped that Motley was on the bench in foul trouble, but the cyclical nature of West Virginia's game, with easier looks leading to baskets and then full-court pressure, resulted in an eight-point lead.
All it took was Motley's return to end West Virginia's momentum and spark Baylor's, as his dunking and physicality down low spearheaded a 9-0 run to give his team a lead.
John Lowe of the Associated Press underscored just how unstoppable the big guy was to that point:
John Lowe @JohnEverett24
Jonathan Motley accounts for 35% of Baylor's scoring tonight.2017-2-28 01:45:34
Motley's play was just the start of the spurt for the Bears, as they pushed the run to 16-2 and lead to 57-51 with a three from Freeman. West Virginia's defenders were caught focusing on Motley on multiple occasions, which opened up his teammates during the stretch.
Freeman drilled another three to make it 62-53 with less than three minutes remaining, and West Virginia never climbed closer than eight the rest of the game.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins commented on the loss, per Stephen Hawkins of the Associated Press (h/t Miami Herald): "Defensively, we got real tentative. And really they just beat us to death on the glass."
Baylor head coach Scott Drew discussed the challenge of playing the Mountaineers, per Hawkins: "If you can get stops, and then get in transition, that's so big and so critical. When they score they set up the press. And by the time you get it across half court, you're ready for a water break."
Ishmail Wainright reflected on his senior day at Baylor, per Hawkins: "This was extremely special. My last one, a great ride four years in the making. They said it was for me and that's the only thing I can really say about that one. A great team."
The Mountaineers will go for the season sweep of Iowa State on Friday in their regular-season finale.
Baylor closes its regular season Saturday against a Texas team it already beat by 10.