During halftime of the Baylor-West Virginia game, the Ferrell Center crowd went crazy when Bears defensive end B.J. Thompson jumped over two teammates to throw down a powerful slam in a dunk contest featuring four football players.
The Baylor basketball team could have used him Tuesday night against the Mountaineers.
Nobody else did much of anything.
The Bears’ five-game winning streak came to a screeching halt as they fell into a 22-point hole at halftime en route to a dispiriting 71-60 loss to the No. 21 Mountaineers that was more lopsided than the final score indicated.
Baylor’s poor play was surprising after Saturday’s scintillating 59-57 win over No. 6 Texas Tech. The fifth-place Bears (17-11, 7-8) have three regular season games remaining as they try to fight their way into the NCAA tournament, but they’ll need a much better performance than they showed against West Virginia (20-8, 9-6) to win any of them.
“I thought West Virginia came in and their physicality really bothered us,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “First half, we turned it over way too much, missed way too many shots. But then their shot blocking, I thought (Sagaba) Konate with his nine blocks really affected the game. And he’s the fourth-best shot blocker in the country.”
Konate nearly pulled off a triple-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds to go along with his nine blocked shots as the Mountaineers swept the regular season series following a 57-54 win over the Bears on Jan. 9 in Morgantown.
“He’s a big dude and he’s really physical and has great timing and great instincts,” said Baylor guard Jake Lindsey. “Put him at the back of that press and it’s a problem.”
The Mountaineers’ relentless, pressing defense held the Bears to a 32.8 shooting percentage and forced 14 turnovers. In a brutal first half, the Bears shot 19.2 percent and committed 12 turnovers as the Mountaineers opened up a 40-18 lead.
“I think we could have done a better job being more poised and being under control instead of playing to their speed,” said Baylor forward Nuni Omot. “Obviously that’s what West Virginia does, they want you to play at their speed. If we had played at our speed and played calm, it would have been different.”
The ugly game was punctuated by technical fouls against Baylor coach Scott Drew, forward Terry Maston and Omot. Konate and Esa Ahmad drew technicals for West Virginia.
“I made sure the officials knew my thought on the physicality,” Drew said. “It’s hard, you get one player chirping and then another player chirps back. At the end of the day, I always say catch the first. If it’s us, we deserve the technical. If it’s them, they deserve the technical. But eventually, if someone’s chirping, someone’s going to chirp back.”
With the five technicals and 26 fouls against West Virginia and 20 against Baylor, the game dragged on for nearly two hours and 20 minutes.
When asked if the officials got too involved, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said, “They must not have been flying out of Waco. They must have been staying the night because they missed whatever flight they had.”
The Bears looked sluggish out of the gate as they missed six of their first seven shots and finished the first half five of 26 as West Virginia took a 40-18 lead.
Baylor grabbed its only lead when Jo Lual-Acuil drove for a basket in the opening minute before the Mountaineers reeled off nine straight points as Jevon Carter drained a 3-pointer and Daxter Miles drove into the lane twice for baskets.
With the Bears missing shots and repeatedly throwing the ball away, the Mountaineers kept stretching their lead. Ahmad was a catalyst as he buried a 3-pointer and drove for a basket.
Teddy Allen converted a three-point play when he drove for basket, drew a foul from King McClure and hit the free throw to give West Virginia a 29-9 lead with 5:21 remaining in the first half.
Baylor didn’t crack double figures until Tyson Jolly hit a pair of free throws with 5:07 left in the first half.
After the Bears cut the lead to 33-18, the Mountaineers finished the first half with a 7-0 run that featured James Bolden’s 3-pointer and Carter’s breakaway slam.
Trailing 53-27, the Bears tried to get back into the game with a 16-2 run to cut the lead to 55-43. Omot fueled the run with a 3-pointer and a pair of two-point baskets.
But Baylor’s momentum died when Miles drained a 3-pointer, drew a foul from Omot, and hit the free throw for a four-point play with 6:54 remaining.
“When you dig a hole like that you have to expend a lot of energy to cut that lead,” Lindsey said. “You’ve got to get a little lucky and they might miss a shot or two or fumble a ball and we might catch a turnover and a fast break. We just didn’t convert when they did do that. We didn’t do a good enough job taking away their strengths.”