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February 13, 2013

Baylor breaks WVU win streak, 80-60

Despite showing improvement over the past few weeks, inconsistent, sloppy play on the court reared its ugly head again for West Virginia basketball, as the Mountaineers fell to the Baylor Bears 80-60 Wednesday night in Waco.

It was difficult from the get-go for the Mountaineers, as Bob Huggins' squad opened up the road contest with three turnovers and two fouls in the game's first three minutes. Following the team's third turnover off an inbounds play - a common theme this season for the Mountaineers - a frustrated Huggins called a quick timeout.

Meanwhile, the Bears managed to take full advantage of West Virginia's early mistakes, with a Brady Heslip three giving Baylor a 7-0 lead as play commenced out of the timeout. A running hook shot by Deniz Kilicli would end the early bleeding, but the Bears still managed to take a 7-2 lead into the first media timeout.

The Bears had a hard time regaining the hot-hand coming out of the media timeout, failing to connect on a number of open opportunities behind the arc. With momentum waning, the Mountaineers took full advantage of a newly-cold Baylor squad, equaling the score at seven following a big three from Eron Harris at the top of the key and Aaric Murray midrange jumper off the screen.

But Baylor would come roaring back entering the second media timeout. A smooth backdoor cut by Jabarie Hinds added to the Mountaineer's point total, but a hole in West Virginia's defense allowed Baylor's Rico Gathers to sneak in for the layup and 11-9 lead.

Hinds would continue to be the catalyst for West Virginia's offense exiting the timeout, relishing his role as the floor general and scoring threat. The sophomore guard scored six-straight points for the Mountaineers, including a monster slam off a trick inbounds play, and added an assist to Kilicli prior to the media timeout.

But the Bears would continue to answer the Mountaineers basket-for-basket, primarily at the expense of WVU's sloppy ball-handling. Eight turnovers in the first 15 minutes of the half helped to discredit an otherwise strong performance for West Virginia.

A three-pointer by Pierre Jackson put the Bears up top by one - 18-17 - with just under seven minutes remaining in the half, but sparking another run for Baylor in the process. Attacking the Mountaineers with aggressive offense, the Bears found themselves taking an advantage from the free throw line, pushing their lead back up to seven - 24-17.

West Virginia's drought would not last long, however, thanks to the efforts of Dominique Rutledge. The senior center, who has been noted for his hustling throughout the year, added five quick points off the bench, cutting the Mountaineer's deficit to three at the final media timeout of the half.

Both squads would trade shots from behind the arc, with Baylor getting the last laugh. Following a quick timeout, the Bear's Gary Franklin hit a three-pointer with seconds remaining on the clock to give Baylor a 31-27 halftime lead.

The Bears would attack quickly coming out of the locker room, pushing their lead back up to seven with an Isaiah Austin three pointer. But continuing the with the common trend of the game, that was as large a gap that Baylor would get.

The Mountaineers would roar with a three-point play from Kilicli, cutting the lead to four - 36-32 - at the first media timeout.

Baylor finally managed to break the seven-point threshold, after a wide-open Heslip three pointer Jackson layup on back-to-back possession pushed their lead to nine, forcing a West Virginia timeout.

But the timeout would do little to halt the Bears' momentum. A five-second violation on the inbounds for West Virginia, resulting in their 14th turnover of the even, led directly to another Heslip three, his fourth of the night. The trifecta would give Baylor their first double-digit lead of the game, 46-34.

The good vibes would not last long for Baylor, however, as the Mountaineers quickly brought the lead back down to eight with back-to-back slams from Murray and Harris. The latter, a perfectly-executed fast break slam by the freshman guard, prompted a quick Baylor timeout.

Controversy arose just past the midway point when a string of questionable calls from the officials on both ends cause frustrations to boil over for both Baylor and West Virginia.

For Kilicli, the frustration was too much to bear. After being hounded by officials much of the evening, the senior let loose his anger following his third foul, tossing the basketball in the air and receiving a technical foul for his actions.

With the technical foul representing irritation on West Virginia's bench as a whole, the Bears took quick advantage. A pair of Heslip three pointers, his fifth and sixth of the night, helped give Baylor a 63-46 lead with just over six minutes remaining.

The lead would prove to be insurmountable for the Mountaineers. With little to no fight remaining for West Virginia, the Bears would continue to pour it on their opponent with a bevy of aggressive defensive stops and seemingly unstoppable shooting. The Mountaineers appeared to roll over for their opponent, as Baylor went on a 24-9 run over an eight minute span to help close out a home victory.

Final score: Baylor 80, West Virginia 60.
The Mountaineers were led in by Eron Harris and Deniz Kilicli, who contributed 19 and 13 points, respectively.

West Virginia returns home this Saturday against Texas Tech. Tipoff is at 4pm.

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