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History suggests Tuesday will be a heavyweight fight

Coming off a 26-point loss to Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse, the Mountaineers will have yet another challenge. On Tuesday, the Mountaineers will welcome the defending National Champion Baylor Bears to town. 

West Virginia (13-3, 2-2 Big 12), might be facing their toughest opponent of the year, as Baylor (15-2, 3-2 Big 12) has held the nation’s No. 1 ranking for most of the season. The Bears have dropped their last two games, and have fallen to No. 5 in the latest rankings. 

In Morgantown, Baylor has a 5-4 record, but it has been a back-and-forth series. In the nine games between the teams at the WVU Coliseum, there have been multiple storybook games. Let’s take a look back on some of the best ones between the Mountaineers and Bears in Morgantown. 

2016-2017 (89-68 WVU) 

Coming into the Jan. 10 game in Morgantown, the Baylor Bears stood at No. 1 in the country, while WVU was No. 10. West Virginia, in the prime years of ‘Press Virginia,’ had weapons, and they all came to play that night. 

The Bears were pestered by the Mountaineer defense all night, as WVU forced 29 Baylor turnovers. Leading the press was Morgantown native Nathan Adrian. Adrian stood atop the press and always put pressure on the ball with his long arms. Adrian forced multiple turnovers, but he also got it done on offense this night. Adrian scored 22 points while shooting 7-for-10 from the field. 

With the efforts of Adrian, WVU took a seven-point lead into the locker room. The Mountaineers kept their foot on the gas the entire second half, and between turnovers and lack of defense, the Bears just couldn’t keep up. 

Nathan Adrian wasn’t the only Mountaineer to reach double figures, as Jevon Carter put in 17 points, while Brandon Watkins and Tarik Phillip each scored 11 points. 

The atmosphere was electric in the Coliseum, and as the second half rolled on, everyone knew No. 1 was going down. When the final buzzer sounded, the Mountaineer student section stormed the court, as WVU had handed Baylor their first loss of the season by the score of 89-68. 

2019-2020 (76-64 WVU)

In the game of the regular season, Baylor was coming in with a 26-4 record and a No. 4 ranking in the country, which would have made them a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their lineup featured most of the weapons that won them a National Championship a year later, as they were led by Jared Butler, Macio Teague, Davion Mitchell, and Mark Vital. 

WVU was an inconsistent team in 2019-2020, and they were 20-10, needing a big win to gain momentum for the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments. 

Shortly after this game, the sports world would shut down due to COVID-19, so this turned out to be the last game of the season, and the last packed house at the Coliseum for a long time. The game did not disappoint. 

The No. 4 Bears came out and took a quick 9-0 lead, but WVU answered by the early hot hand of Emmitt Matthews. The first half saw multiple ties and lead changes, but WVU took a two-point lead at the break. 

The early parts of the second half were no different than the first half, as the teams exchanged their blows. Baylor had the lead early in the second half and extended it to seven points, but WVU always had an answer. The Mountaineers took the lead with nine minutes to play on an Oscar Tshiebwe layup, and never looked back. 

Baylor stayed within striking distance with Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell making shots, but WVU kept the lead with multiple buckets from Miles McBride and Sean McNeil, a couple of dunks from Oscar Tshiebwe and Emmitt Matthews. 

WVU delivered the dagger with a one-minute sequence that got the Coliseum rocking. Leading by five, Jermaine Haley dumped the ball in the post to Oscar Tshiebwe, who dunked the ball on Baylor’s Freddie Gillespie.  

On the ensuing possession, Baylor’s Jared Butler hoisted up an NBA-range three-pointer that missed, and WVU went down and scored on a Miles McBride layup. The Mountaineers forced a turnover on the next Baylor possession and had numbers in transition. Miles McBride took a pass from Emmitt Matthews, dribbled hard to the rim, and aggressively threw down a one-handed dunk. 

WVU was on a 20-4 run over the last eight minutes, and this sequence would prove to be fatal for the Bears. Baylor ended up making multiple three-pointers down the stretch to stay in the game, but the WVU lead was too big, and no comeback effort was successful. WVU pulled off 76-64 upset and the WVU fans once again stormed the court. 

WVU was led by Emmitt Matthews, who scored 18 points, while shooting 6-for-11 with his family from the state of Washington in attendance. Oscar Tshiebwe scored 16 points, while Miles McBride put in 12 and Sean McNeil had 11. 

2020-2021 (94-89 Baylor [OT] ) 

With the No. 3 ranked Baylor Bears needing one win to clinch the Big 12 regular-season championship, they would have to do it in a difficult way. They would have to go to Morgantown to face the No. 6 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. 

The first half was a fun one, as Baylor took an early 12-2 lead, but WVU went to Taz Sherman to get them going. Sherman made five field goals in the first half to keep his team within striking distance. Up by one point, Baylor’s Jared Butler swished a corner three-pointer at the buzzer to give Baylor a four-point lead going into halftime. 

Early in the second half, Sean McNeil caught fire and helped give WVU the momentum. McNeil scored 13 points in under four minutes of action by making five field goals, including three three-pointers. This gave WVU a five-point lead, and that lead was extended to seven points, but Baylor was never out of reach. 

Baylor kept scoring with the excellent play of Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, and Matthew Mayer. This allowed them to regain the lead and make it a back-and-forth blood bath. With under five minutes to play, Matthew Mayer made a dunk to tie the game, but Taz Sherman answered with a deep three-pointer to give WVU a 72-69 lead. 

After the Sherman three, Matthew Mayer of Baylor took over to save the game for Baylor. Mayer made a tough contested layup to cut the WVU lead to one, and after two McBride free throws, Mayer stepped up and made a three-pointer to tie the game at 74-74. 

On the next Mountaineer possession, Sean McNeil made a long, two-point jumper in the face of Mayer to give WVU a 76-74 lead. On the ensuing possession, Mayer made another three-pointer to silence the limited WVU crowd and give Baylor a 77-76 lead with 1:42 to play. 

At this point, neither team could get a defensive stop, and that continued when Taz Sherman answered Mayer’s three-pointer with a clutch two-point jumper to regain the lead for the Mountaineers. Baylor continued the trend of scoring when Jared Butler took the ball to the hoop and scored an and-one layup to give the Bears a 79-78 lead with 1:05 left. 

Butler would miss the free throw, and WVU took an 80-79 lead when Derek Culver made two free throws. The Mountaineers got a big defensive stop and held the ball as long as they could before taking a shot to try to extend the lead. 

McBride took a three-pointer late in the shot clock, but it was blocked, and Baylor had possession with 24 seconds remaining. Baylor wasted no time trying to score, but Mark Vital was blocked and Miles McBride was fouled with 13 seconds to go. 

McBride missed his first free throw, which opened things up for Baylor. McBride made the second shot, but all Baylor needed was a two-point shot to send the game to overtime. Jared Butler attacked the rim and scored a contested layup with two seconds left to send the game to overtime. 

In overtime, Jared Butler made a clutch three-pointer with 2:45 left to give Baylor an 86-85 lead. On WVU’s next possession, Jalen Bridges had to force up a three-pointer as the shot clock was expiring, and he made it to give WVU an 88-86 lead.  

Macio Teague answered with a two-point jumper to tie the game at 87-87 with 1:50 left. After Taz Sherman went 1-for-2 from the free throw line, Baylor took the lead with a Davion Mitchell layup with one minute left. 

With the Mountaineers needing a bucket, Taz Sherman was stripped by Mark Vital. Adam Flager made two free throws to give Baylor a 92-89 lead with 34 seconds left, so now WVU needed a quick bucket. Miles McBride took the ball to the hoop and was whistled for an offensive foul. 

Davion Mitchell made both of his free throws, and that sealed a 94-89 overtime victory in Morgantown. For Baylor, Jared Butler scored 25 points, while Davion Mitchell put in 20 and Matthew Mayer scored 18. WVU was led by Taz Sherman, who scored 26 points. Miles McBride scored 19 points, while Sean McNeil put in 18 of his own. 

Baylor sealed a Big 12 regular season crown for the 2020-2021 season and won their first ever National Championship a month later with an 86-70 win over Gonzaga. 

WVU and Baylor will square off for their first meeting of the year on Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. from the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown. 

Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography

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