By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - "Press Virginia is real."
Those were the words of Baylor sophomore guard Jake Lindsey after the top-ranked Bears (15-1, 3-1) turned it over 29 times in an 89-68 blowout loss Tuesday night before a rocking sellout crowd of 14,632 at WVU Coliseum.
Playing its first game ever as the No. 1-ranked team in the country, Baylor had its most turnovers in a Big 12 game and came within two of the school record set against the Arkansas Razorbacks' "40 Minutes of Hell" defense in 1991.
"Top to bottom, we didn't do a good job handling (the press) with our head up," said Lindsey, who had three turnovers to go with four points, three assists and two steals in 27 minutes. "You've got to punish the press. You've got to go at them. You can't let them press you relentlessly without making them pay for it, or else it wears you down."
Nathan Adrian scored 22 and Jevon Carter added 17 points, seven assists and five steals as the Mountaineers (14-2, 3-1) beat the Bears for the third straight time after sweeping last year's season series. This was also West Virginia's third home win over a No. 1-ranked team, including last year's upset of top-ranked Kansas.
While West Virginia came up with 15 steals and created some of Baylor's 29 turnovers with its press, a lot of the Bears' 16 first-half turnovers were self-inflicted wounds in half-court sets.
"This is definitely the best pressing team Coach (Bob) Huggins has had," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team had its 15-game winning streak snapped in leaving Gonzaga as the last remaining unbeaten team in Division I. "If you would have said before the game that you're going to have 29 turnovers, I wouldn't have believed you, even knowing how good their pressure is. They just took us out of everything. They make you feel uneasy, uncomfortable."
Even with Baylor's 16 first-half turnovers, the Bears trailed by just seven at the break, 39-32. The Mountaineers scored 12 second-chance points off six offensive rebounds and ended the half with a wide-open jumper by Adrian off an assist from Carter.
The Bears kept it close through the first three minutes of the second half, with Manu Lecomte draining a 3-pointer that made it 43-37. But, in the blink of an eye, WVU stretched it to a double-digit lead with seven straight points on a Daxter Miles Jr. trey and back-to-back layups by Esa Ahmed, the second one coming off another turnover.
A pair of free throws by Terry Maston cut it back to within single digits for the last time at 52-43, with the Bears going scoreless over the next three minutes and getting just one bucket in a six-minute stretch.
Adrian drilled a 3-pointer to start a 10-2 run, then Carter capped it with a steal and layup to make it 62-45 with 8:15 left in the game. West Virginia led by as many as 26 and never let up, even when Huggins emptied his bench.
"They just kept coming, kept coming," said Maston, who had 10 of the Bears' 27 bench points. "We were down two, they were pressing. We were down almost 30, and they were still pressing. They were just relentless."
And the key, Drew said, was the Bears never made them pay.
"When you have advantages, you want to capitalize," Drew said. "They do a good job of making it tough to even get layups. And when we did have 3-on-2 or 4-on-3 advantages, we didn't get enough easy baskets. Then from 3, we had some pretty good looks, and you've got to make those. Because if you do, now they start running out at you, and you can get some easy ones that way. That's the penalty for pressing is you should get easy baskets."
Tarik Phillip and Brandon Watkins had 11 points apiece for the Mountaineers, while Jo Lual-Acuil posted a double-double for the Bears with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Johnathan Motely, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week, was just 3-of-10 from the floor and finished with eight points, five rebounds, three blocks and three turnovers.
"The biggest thing that impresses me with them is their assist-to-turnover ratio," Drew said of the Mountaineers' 20 assists and just 12 turnovers. "Coach Huggins pulls everyone after a turnover. We would have had five guys at the scorer's table every dead ball."
Baylor goes back on the road to face No. 25 Kansas State (13-2, 2-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Manhattan, Kan., before returning home to host Texas (7-8, 1-2) at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the Ferrell Center.