By Chad Conine, The Sports Xchange
WACO, Texas — Johnathan Motley took over in the second half, and No. 11 Baylor avenged its worst loss of the season by defeating No. 10 West Virginia 71-62 on Monday night at the Ferrell Center.
West Virginia (23-7, 11-6 Big 12) knocked off then-top-ranked Baylor by 21 points in Morgantown, W.Va., on Jan. 10. However, Motley and the Bears (24-6, 11-6) erased an eight-point deficit in the second half Monday to even the season series versus the Mountaineers.
Motley scored 23 points, including 19 in the second half, to lead Baylor. Guard Al Freeman hit a pair of crucial 3-pointers in the second half on his way to 12 points, and forward Jo Lual-Acuil added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Motley hit 11 of 11 free throws as he consistently got the ball in the paint after halftime and cashed in those chances.
“Coach just told me to make sure I make those quicker moves and once I got to the free-throw line it will all start coming together,” Motley said about his effort in the final 20 minutes. “I started dunking and got hyped.”
Guard Jevon Carter led West Virginia with 18 points. Tarik Phillip added 12, and Elijah Macon had 11.
Baylor outrebounded West Virginia, 43-23.
Bears coach Scott Drew and Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins each pointed to that margin as a rarity and a determining factor.
“We’re usually a pretty good rebounding team, and they whipped us pretty good on the glass,” Huggins said.
Drew said his players’ effort in the rebounding category proved how much they wanted to win senior guard Ishmail Wainright’s final home game. Wainright, who finished with seven points and eight rebounds, is Baylor’s only senior.
“We find a way to win,” Drew said. “That’s a tribute to the teammates’ desire to win for Ish. I think that shows in the biggest category, which is rebounding. To outrebound West Virginia 43-23, that doesn’t happen ever. Huge kudos to our guys for how hard they competed.”
West Virginia took an eight-point lead midway through the second half when Carter nailed a step-back jumper with 9:04 remaining.
Motley answered on the Bears’ next possession, getting to the rim for a dunk and completing a three-point play at the free-throw line.
That set off a 9-0 run for Baylor as the Bears held West Virginia scoreless for three minutes. Motley hit a pair of free throws to give Baylor its first lead of the second half, 50-49, with 6:28 left.
“We just executed, and Mot led us,” Wainright said. “Like I said, we felt like we were in control the whole game.”
Carter broke the Mountaineers’ drought with a jumper in the lane, but Baylor scored the next seven points.
Wainright came up with a steal, then finished the resulting fastbreak with a layup on an assist from Motley.
Then Freeman nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to give Baylor a six-point lead with 4:09 left. Freeman added another wide-open trey with 2:47 to go that put the Bears in command 62-53.
Baylor, which committed 29 turnovers in a 21-point loss at West Virginia in January, was missing point guard Manu Lecomte due to an ankle injury. Lecomte had been nursing a sore ankle and re-injured it at Iowa State on Saturday.
The Bears committed 18 turnovers this time.
Baylor’s defense baffled West Virginia through the first eight minutes. The Mountaineers made only one of their first nine shots from the field and scored just three points through the opening eight minutes.
“We’ve had a lot of days where we didn’t shoot it very well, but we found ways to win because we rebounded the ball,” Huggins said. “They did a great job of rebounding the ball.”
Baylor grabbed a 12-3 lead when guard Chuck Mitchell hit a pull-up jumper with 12:53 left in the first half.
But West Virginia bounced back with a 16-3 run as it found the rhythm from the field and hit 5 of 7 shots during the surge.
The Mountaineers’ run was accelerated by a technical on Drew following a reach-in call on Bears forward Nuni Omot.
West Virginia forward Lamont West hit a pair of technical free throws, then guard Teyvon Myers made both ends of a one-and-one to put the Mountaineers ahead 18-15.
West Virginia ended up shooting 36 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and took a 30-28 edge to the break.