MORGANTOWN, W.Va.– After a come-from-behind win at Iowa State, the 14th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers return to the Coliseum on Saturday to take on the 15th-ranked Baylor Bears.
Baylor (17-5, 6-3 Big 12) is coming off a 67-59 loss to Texas on Monday, where the Bears struggled with the Longhorns’ press defense.
Texas held Baylor to season lows in points and shooting percentage. The Bears shot at 35 percent and turned the ball over 11 times.
Now Baylor must travel to Morgantown and face WVU’s smothering press in front of a sold-out Coliseum.
The Bears have been successful against the Mountaineers (18-4, 7-2) in recent years. Baylor is 7-1 all-time against WVU.
Last season the Bears went 3-0 against the Mountaineers, defeating them by double-digits all three times and sending WVU home early from the Big 12 tournament.
The Mountaineers lead Division I basketball in steals (10.6) and turnovers forced (19.4) per game. At home, WVU is 9-1 this season and averages 21.4 turnovers.
Rico Gathers has been a problem for the Mountaineers over the years. The 6-foot-8, 275-pound senior is averaging 13 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this season.
Last season Gathers tallied 17 points and had 17 boards against WVU in Morgantown. In Waco, he had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
“He’s a strong player,” Mountaineers forward Devin Williams said. “He has a knack for the ball, but not really much. I never had that type of perception that everybody had for him. He’s a guy that just works hard for what he wants.”
Gathers plays similar style to that of Williams.
“I feel like I am the hardest working guy in the conference so it’s going to be a hard working game,” Williams said.
Alongside Gathers is senior Taurean Prince. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward averages 15.1 points. He is the only player in the Big 12 this season to rank among the conference’s top 20 in scoring (fifth), rebounding (11th), assists (18th) and steals (ninth).
Lester Medford runs the point and averages nine points per game. Ishmail Wainwright averages just five points.
Al Freeman is the biggest scoring threat from the backcourt. He is averaging 11.8 points and leads the Bears with 38 3-pointers.
WVU bounced back from last Saturday’s loss over Florida, with a good team effort in an 81-76 win over the Cyclones in Ames. The Mountaineers forced 16 turnovers and they out rebounded Iowa State 43-26.
WVU is first in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (42.8) while the Bears are third (40.2). The Mountaineers will be without their top offensive rebounder Jonathan Holton for the third straight game.
WVU is one of the Big 12’s worst shooting teams and will count on scoring off of second chances and generating as many points as possible off of turnovers.
Baylor will have to stop the Mountaineers leading scorer Jaysean Paige. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior guard is coming off a stellar game against the Cyclones where he scored 23 points.
Daxter Miles Jr., who had been struggling offensively of late, scored 11 points.
Williams looked like his old self against Iowa State. He scored 17 points and grabbed 18 boards.
Ahmad looked more comfortable on the court Tuesday. He shot 4-of-5 from the floor and made all three of his second-half attempts.
WVU is currently tied with No.1 Oklahoma for first place in the Big 12.
All five of the Bear’s losses have been against current top-20 RPI teams (at Oregon, at TAMU, at Kansas, vs. OU, vs. UT).
Baylor is the only team to win in Morgantown in each of the last three seasons.
Tipoff is at 8 p.m. (ET) and is televised on ESPN2.