No. 4 Baylor, WVU both coming off losses entering Monday matchup
No. 4 Baylor will look to return to its winning ways and get some of its injured players back on the floor when its hosts struggling West Virginia on Monday in Big 12 Conference play in Waco, Texas.
The Bears (18-3, 6-2 Big 12) head home after an 87-78 loss at Alabama on Saturday afternoon in a Big 12/SEC Challenge game. Jeremy Sochan scored 17 points to lead Baylor, with Adam Flagler adding 16, Matthew Mayer 12 and Kendall Brown 10.
Baylor got just eight points, all in the second half, from James Akinjo. The team's second-leading scorer (13.2 points per game) is on a minutes restriction after a back injury.
Baylor played without leading scorer LJ Cryer (13.9 ppg), who has a foot injury.
Saturday's game was close through the first half, with Baylor trailing by just a point until a last-second foul by Akinjo granted Alabama three free throws and a 38-34 advantage at halftime.
The Bears were overwhelmed by a 14-2 Alabama run over about 3 1/2 minutes of the second half that turned a five-point deficit to 15 with 11:44 remaining. Baylor closed to within 75-71 with 4:03 to play but got no closer in dropping its first non-conference game of the season.
"We've had so many people out -- from Jeremy out and James out to now LJ out -- and as you know you need to develop a rhythm and chemistry," Baylor coach Scott Drew said after the loss. "Obviously, it's hard plugging guys in. It takes them a little time to get back in the groove of things as well.
"Rotation-wise, it's been challenging, to say the least. And hopefully we can get to some kind of rhythm here where we get guys back, we know who's playing when, what we're doing and how they're doing."
The Mountaineers head southwest after a 77-68 loss to Arkansas in another Big 12/SEC Challenge dustup. West Virginia, which has dropped five straight games, got 18 points from Kedrian Johnson, 15 from Taz Sherman and 11 from Malik Curry.
"I hate to lose -- I detest it," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said afterward. "We started out the game the way we've been playing, and then we decided we were going to compete. But I'm proud of (my team) for how we competed. I'm proud of the fact that they didn't lay down."
The Mountaineers fought back from a 19-point deficit four minutes into the second half with a 12-0 run, and again late when they closed to within 71-64 with 3:29 to play.
West Virginia was ultimately undone by a huge discrepancy at the free throw line (minus-13 points), 38.3 percent shooting from the floor, and getting outrebounded 44-26.
Huggins said he can feel his team coming together.
"We're going to get it going, gang. Don't worry," he said. "I feel like we've turned, and we've got it going in the right direction."
If the Mountaineers are going to get back on track, they likely couldn't have picked a more difficult opponent. Baylor beat West Virginia 77-68 in Morgantown, W.Va., on Jan. 18 in a game Huggins said his team could have won.
"We had a chance to win that game," Huggins said. "We're going to play, and all you can do is ask people to give their best. In the first half (against Arkansas), we didn't do that. In the second half, we gave our best."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 30, 2022