MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — On the verge of one of its biggest wins in school history, Baylor went cold in the final minutes as No. 2 West Virginia held on for a 57-54 win Tuesday night at WVU Coliseum.
The Bears are now 0-18 all-time against teams ranked first or second in the country, but they certainly gave the Mountaineers (15-1, 4-0) a big scare.
The Bears had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer when Jake Lindsey threw a long inbounds pass to Jo Lual-Acuil, who fired a pass to Manu Lecomte. But Lecomte couldn’t hit a wide open 3-point attempt as the Mountaineers extended their nation’s best winning streak to 15 games.
“It was a great play by Coach (Scott) Drew,” said Lecomte in a postgame radio interview. “We practice it a lot because games in the Big 12 are going to be close. We ran it perfectly. I got an open shot but I missed it.”
The Bears (11-5, 1-3) hit just one field goal in the final eight minutes.
Baylor held high-scoring West Virginia guard Jevon Carter to eight points, marking only the second time this season that he failed to score in double figures.
But Carter nailed a 3-pointer to give the Mountaineers a 54-51 lead with 57.5 seconds remaining. After Daxter Miles hit a free throw to push West Virginia’s lead to 55-51 with 15.8 seconds to play, Lindsey drained a 3-pointer to pull the Bears within one with four seconds remaining.
Tyson Jolly fouled Carter on the inbounds play, and the senior guard nailed both free throws to give the Mountaineers a 57-54 edge before Lecomte missed the last-second shot.
Despite the loss, Drew was pleased with a Baylor defense that held the Mountaineers to 31.1 percent shooting. With Lual-Acuil collecting 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots, the Bears won the boards by a 44-37 margin.
“I’m pleased that we competed at a high enough level to have a chance to beat the No. 2 team in the country on their court,” Drew said. “We know we can compete with anybody in the country. I feel good about the leadership of our players, but we have to get better at execution.”
Baylor struggled offensively as it shot 35.8 percent and committed 21 turnovers. The Bears played much better than they did in last year’s game in Morgantown when they were ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history and committed 29 turnovers in an 89-68 loss.
But the Bears still had difficulty with West Virginia’s intimidating press.
“At the end of the day we’ve got to take care of the ball,” Drew said. “Until we do that we’re not going to beat quality teams with 21 turnovers. But we’re getting people healthy and hopefully we can take some steps forward now.”
Lecomte led the Bears with 13 points, but he and Lual-Acuil were the team’s only double-figure scorers. Miles and Lamont West were the only double-figure scorers for the Mountaineers with 12 points apiece, but Sagaba Konate had a tremendous all-around game with eight points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks.
Baylor led most of the first half as it opened up an early 13-4 lead when Lecomte buried a pair of 3-pointers.
After Lual-Acuil drove for a basket to push Baylor’s lead to 24-17, the Mountaineers answered with a 9-2 run to tie the game as West and Chase Barler drained 3-pointers.
Lecomte hit his third trey for the Bears, but James Bolden answered with a 3-pointer for the Mountaineers to tie the game at 29 entering halftime.
The Mountaineers led by a slim margin throughout most of the second half, but both teams had difficulty scoring. After Baylor’s Tristan Clark tied the game at 49 with a pair of free throws with 5:11 remaining, Konate got inside for a basket to give West Virginia a 51-49 lead with 3:25 remaining.
Baylor tied it at 51 when Lecomte hit a pair of free throws with 2:23 left before the final sequence of events.
Baylor will hit the road for the second straight game when it faces Iowa State in Ames at 2 p.m. Saturday.