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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — “Basketball is a game of runs. That’s what it is,” said West Virginia senior guard Sean McNeil after Tuesday’s 77-68 loss to Baylor at the WVU Coliseum. “It’s always about how we respond. Unfortunately, they just made a run we couldn’t overcome tonight.”

Tuesday’s Big 12 battle was broken down into three distinct runs.

BU went on a 24-5 tear midway through the first half, turning a 9-6 West Virginia lead into a 30-14 Bear advantage.

Feeding off the energy of the crowd of 12,692, the Mountaineers immediately responded, though, ripping off 14 unanswered points itself to cut that 16-point margin down to two late in the opening period.

“We just started playing as a team,” said West Virginia’s Malik Curry of WVU’s turnaround.

Curry led the Mountaineers in scoring with 19 points. Taz Sherman added 18 for WVU, and McNeil had 17.

“But we can’t allow that to happen — what was it, a 16-point lead in the first half? — we can’t allow that to happen, especially at home,” the senior guard continued. “We had to respond in a good way, and we just played team basketball after that.”

Baylor remained on top 37-33 at halftime, but WVU kept charging in the second half, and eventually moved in front by three, 48-45, on a McNeil triple with 14:26 remaining. The two combatants traded the lead a few times over the next seven minutes, before the fifth-ranked Bears (16-2/4-2) put together one final, decisive run.

The BU lead was just one at 60-59 with 6:05 to play, but back-to-back 3-pointers by the Bears’ Matthew Mayer, who finished with 20 points which included hitting five of eight from beyond the arc, and Adam Flager (14 points) kicked off a 15-4 Baylor spurt over a five-minute span. When BU’s last run was done, there wasn’t enough time for West Virginia (13-4/2-3) to respond.

The Mountaineers’ hopes of springing an upset over the defending national champion Bears, who had been ranked No. 1 in the country before losing two straight games last week in Waco, were hindered by their inability to score inside. They made just nine of 25 field goal attempts in the lane and were a mere two of 11 from inside three feet.

Meanwhile, Baylor made 14 of 25 shots in the lane and 10 of 14 inside of three feet.

“That’s something we have to fix; we can’t miss those bunnies in the lane, especially in this type of game,” said McNeil. “I missed one myself. Those are buckets you need, especially late. We needed those points, but we just didn’t get them.”

Despite the loss, Curry continued to show his ability to score. After transferring from Old Dominion to WVU this summer, the 6-foot-1 guard has now put together strong efforts in the past two games. He posted a West Virginia career-high 23 points Saturday at No. 7 Kansas, followed by his second-best WVU scoring performance with 19 against Baylor.

The Wilmington, Delaware, native said none of those individual stats matter, though, because each came in a Mountaineer loss.

“I may have been playing well, but as a team, we lost two straight, so I’m not doing enough, in my mind,” Curry stated. “We’re not winning, so I’m not doing enough. I just want to win. Even if it’s my defense, then that’s what I’ve got to do for us to win. Individual stats are cool and all, but if we’re not winning, they really don’t matter.”

Having lost two games in the past four days to a pair of top-10 opponents, life doesn’t get a whole lot easier for the Mountaineers. Their next contest takes them to Waco on Saturday (noon on ESPN2), where they’ll face 18th-ranked Texas Tech (13-4/3-2). The Red Raiders have already recorded victories over both Kansas and Baylor.

ROBERT KEITH RIGGS, 90, died January 11, 2022, in his home at Shenandoah Valley Westminster Canterbury, Winchester, Virginia. He was born in W…

The Mountaineers continue their journey through the Big 12 gauntlet when they host No. 5 Baylor (15-2/3-2) Tuesday afternoon in a showdown that tips off at 5 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2.

Having lost at No. 7 Kansas, 85-59, this past Saturday and with a trip to No. 18 Texas Tech (13-4/3-2) coming up next Saturday, West Virginia (13-3/2-2) is staring down the barrel of the defending national champion Bears, who had been ranked No. 1 this season and also was undefeated until losing a pair of contests in Waco – 65-62 to Texas Tech and 61-54 to Oklahoma State – last week.

So both BU and WVU clash on Tuesday at the Coliseum looking to right their respective ships.

“This league is hard, and the coaching in this league is fantastic,” answered West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins, when asked why Baylor had stumbled twice recently. “I was told earlier today that all 10 teams in the league are ranked in the top 75 in the NET. You just don’t get a break in this league.

“There are variables, and sometimes you just miss shots. (The Bears) were going through a stretch where they weren’t making shots as consistently as they were earlier in the year.”

Center Flo Thamba is Baylor’s only returning starter from last year’s 28-2 club that captured the school’s first-ever men’s basketball national championship. Gone are Jared Butler (now in the NBA), Davion Mitchell (NBA), MaCio Teague (G League) and Mark Vital (NFL, tight end on the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad), but despite those significant personnel losses, BU’s 19th-year head coach Scott Drew still has the Bears near the top of the heap in not only the Big 12 but also in all of college basketball.

“I don’t think their guards shoot it quite as consistently as the ones they had a year ago, but they’re still good,” explained Huggins, whose Mountaineers are 8-12 all-time against Baylor, including a 4-5 mark at the WVU Coliseum. “They create. They create for themselves, and they create for others.

“They’re hard to match up with.”

The rebuilt 2021-22 Bears feature five players who currently average better than nine points per game – 6-foot-1 senior guard James Akino, who previously played at Georgetown and Arizona before transferring to Baylor this past summer, is averaging 13.9 points per game this season while converting 36.1% from 3-point range; 6-foot-1 sophomore L.J. Carr (13.1 ppg, 46.5% from three); 6-foot-3 junior Adam Flagler (12.1 ppg, 38.9% from three); 6-foot-8 freshman Kendall Brown (10.6 ppg, 4.0 rebounds per game); and 6-foot-9 senior Matthew Mayer (9.1 ppg, 30.2% from three).

As a team, BU leads the Big 12 in 3-pointers made (150) and is second in offensive 3-point percentage (36.4%). Defense has long been a Bear calling card under Drew, and they are still very good in that category, allowing 59.0 points per game (fourth in the league) and 29.8% from three (third in the Big 12).

“In our league, people play a variety (of defenses),” said Huggins. “Baylor is not going to play us just man-to-man. They’re also going to play zone. They’re going to press a little bit. I think everyone in the league does that; they throw something out there to see if it sticks. If it sticks, they stay with it longer, and if it doesn’t, they go to something else. Scott is one of the guys who really has that figured out.”

* * * * * *

West Virginia senior guard Taz Sherman is currently second in the Big 12 in scoring, averaging 18.9 points per game.

That average sat at 20.9 points per game until Sherman was struck down by Covid in late December. He missed WVU’s loss at Texas on Jan. 1, and while he returned to action for the Mountaineers’ next game against Kansas State on Jan. 8, Sherman obviously hasn’t been his self since getting back on the court. He’s averaged just 10.7 points in his three games since returning, including a season-low five points in Saturday’s loss at Kansas.

“He’s still not 100% yet,” acknowledged WVU’s head coach. “I’m not a doctor, so I can’t put a percentage on it, but I know he’s not what he was.

“He didn’t look like he was 100% yesterday,” said Huggins of Sherman’s practice performance on Sunday. “We tried to get him out as much as we could but still get him in there so he knew what was going on.”

Sophomore forward Jalen Bridges has stepped up his scoring as of late to try to make up for some of what the Mountaineers are lacking without a 100% Sherman. Bridges was averaging 7.3 points per game prior to the trip to Texas, but he has scored at a 13.5 clip the last four contests, three of which he reached double figures.

“I think J.B. has been terrific,” stated Huggins.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) -- In his heart of hearts, Bob Huggins would expect his West Virginia basketball team to come out like a pack of rabid dogs after the way they were beat up in the second half of an 85-59 loss to Kansas on Saturday.

But he just isn't sure how the Mountaineers will react at 5 p.m. on Tuesday when former No. 1 Baylor, which has its own problem with a two-game home losing streak riding on its back coming into the Coliseum.

Asked if it is easier to shrug off a loss of 25 points like Kansas than one in which your team lost at the buzzer, Huggins put it this way:

"I think you're more excited about going out to play to get the bad taste out of your mouth (from losing badly). That's been my experience over the years. I've been blessed to have some great competitors, which certainly helps.

"I think whenever you take a beating like the one we took in Lawrence, everyone is foaming at the mouth to get out and play again."

But circumstances make it such that Huggins, despite 40 years of experience as a head coach, doesn't know what to expect from this team.

"Honestly, I don't know. I don't know our personnel well enough because we haven't gone through that before. Some guys are foaming at the mouth and can't wait to get out there while other guys are like 'Here we go again.' You can't get which are which out of practice," he said.

"Other than what, UAB and maybe one other team, Connecticut, we really weren't tested as much as what some years we are or you have returning guys, or enough returning guys that kind of carry the load for you."

That's basketball, 2022. Between the transfer portal and the NBA draft, keeping a roster intact is difficult, if not impossible.

Huggins has seven freshmen or transfers on his roster. He knew what he had in Deuce McBride, Derek Culver and Emmitt Matthews Jr., all of whom could be playing at WVU this year, but instead he's still trying to learn not only what players like Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan down low can, how guards Keedy and Kobe Johnson will react when facing tough losses with tough games ahead.

"We don't have a bunch of guys who are familiar and understand our culture. I'd be lying if I told you I had them figured out, I don't."

And, in the Big 12, every day is not only a new challenge, it's a difficult and a different challenge.

Kansas and Baylor may be the class of the league, but they are totally different. Huggins approach is different from there's and Jamie Dixon's approach at TCU is more like Huggins' than it is like Scott Drew's at Baylor.

You set up a game-plan for Kansas, then have to scrap it to face Baylor.

"That's what makes the league so hard," Huggins acknowledged. "What they do, they do really well. You don't see two teams in our league playing basically the same. You don't see anyone playing the way Baylor plays.

"It's all personnel-driven. You do what you do to try and fit players that you have and get the most out of them."

That may be true, but it is also coach driven because coaches recruit to the system that want to run. Press Virginia was a unique, personnel-driven team of Huggins but it didn't happen by accident.

He didn't inherit that team. He built it, where his first and second WVU teams inherited from John Beilein saw him adapt to his personnel and use a lot of 1-3-1.

"It's got to be the best coached league in America. You know, I've been in a lot of different leagues. I was in leagues really big-time coaches like Denny Crum and I was in the Big East when the Big East was the Big East," Huggins said, setting a record by managing to get the term "the Big East" into a single sentence three different times.

"I don't think any of those leagues top to bottom were as good. Some of them were really terrific at the top, but the bottom was the bottom. I don't see that in this league."

Huggins began thinking to some of the challenges he faced in other leagues and almost giggled.

"We were playing a team that had four first-round draft picks," Huggins continued. "My assistant said to me he was nervous. 'Man, are they good. This is the best team we've played.' I said, 'Just look at the fat guy down there in the suit and you'll feel better.'

Huggins was referring to the coach.

"This league is hard. We get that it's supposedly a football league, but the coaching in this league is fantastic," Huggins said.

In all, the 10 active Big 12 coaches have 3,317 career games, according to Sports Reference (which does not count Huggins' 71 wins in three seasons at Walsh. As a group, the 10 active Big 12 coaches possess a .664 career winning percentage, and that makes it a unique group.