Morgantown, WV (SportsNetwork.com) - In a Big 12 Conference where every single team has double-digit wins and is playing above .500, there is little rest for the weary as the 15th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers host the 19th-ranked Baylor Bears on Saturday afternoon.
The Mountaineers, tied with Iowa State for second place in the Big 12 standings at 6-3 and trailing only Kansas (8-1), saw a three-game win streak come to an end on Tuesday night when the team was thrashed by Oklahoma on the road, 71-52. The outcome was a vast change from the first meeting of the season last month when the Sooners were pummeled in Morgantown, 86-65.
As for the Bears, who are all alone in fifth place in the Big 12 with five wins in nine chances, the team stomped the TCU Horned Frogs at home three nights ago by a score of 77-57. The win was the second in a row and the fourth in five tries, with three of those victories coming by at least 20 points and all four double figures.
In terms of the all-time series between these league foes, Baylor has won four of the previous five encounters, although the programs did split a pair last season. Each squad won at home as the Bears squeezed out a 66-64 win near the end of January, and WVU returned the favor with an 88-75 triumph the following month in Morgantown.
Baylor's defense held the Horned Frogs to just 35.7 percent shooting from the field and 3-of-11 behind the 3-point line, while TCU hurt itself with just 14- of-25 shooting at the free-throw line. The Bears, who were much more efficient at the charity stripe (19-of-24), were led by Rico Gathers with his 14 points, 17 rebounds and three blocked shots, followed by Kenny Chery with 13 points and six assists.
Also contributing on offense for the Bears were Royce O'Neale with 12 points, Taureen Prince 11 off the bench and Lester Medford with 10 points to go along with five assists and a couple of steals.
Despite coming off the bench in six of the 21 games in which he has appeared, Prince is still the leading scorer for the Bears with 12.1 ppg, although Chery and Gathers are not that far off the pace with 11.8 and 10.7 ppg, respectively. In the case of Gathers, he is one of only a handful of players in the country able to claim to be averaging a double-double thanks to his 12.3 rpg, which is one of the top averages on the glass in the nation. Defensively, this is a squad that is limiting opponents to only 58.2 ppg on less than 30 percent shooting beyond the arc.
It was time for payback for the beat down the Mountaineers put on Oklahoma last month and the Sooners were more than prepared to take out their frustrations in front of the home crowd earlier this week. WVU allowed the hosts to make good on 61.4 percent from the floor, including 6-of-11 behind the 3-point line, all while the visitors made just 5-of-26 out on the perimeter and turned the ball over 15 times.
Juwan Staten came within a rebound of a double-double for the Mountaineers as he tallied 15 points, followed by Gary Browne with 12 points and six boards of his own. Elijah Macon tacked on eight points as the only other player for WVU to make more than a pair of field goals.
One of the more balanced offensive teams in the Big 12, the Mountaineers are producing 75.9 ppg, outscoring the opposition by 11.9 ppg, but there are just two players scoring more than nine points per contest. As expected, Staten is at the top of the list with 14.8 ppg, thanks in part to 92-of-129 at the free- throw line, followed by Devin Williams with another 11.3 ppg. But more than just a scorer, Staten is also the one who keeps the offense flowing with a team-best 91 assists as well.