MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Royce O’Neale scored 22 points and Baylor topped West Virginia 88-75 Saturday in a battle of Big 12 teams striving to make noise in front of the NCAA Tournament.
O’Neale enjoyed a career day, connecting on 8 of 8 field goal attempts, including 4 of 4 from long range. He entered the game at six points per game, and had two points in the last meeting between the teams.
Isaiah Austin had 19, Cory Jefferson 15, Kenny Chery 13 and Brady Heslip added 12 for Baylor (18-9, 6-8 Big 12). It was Baylor’s fourth consecutive league victory.
Leading 67-65, O’Neale knocked down a triple with 6:16 left to spur a 12-3 run as Baylor opened a 79-68 lead. The Bears made 7 of 8 free throws over the final 2:32 to preserve the win.
Baylor took its first lead since being ahead early when Gary Franklin made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 50-49 with 13:41 left. The lead switched back and forth until Austin tied it up with free throws at 12:31 to make it 54-all.
But Chery, who grabbed six rebounds and handed out seven assists, made a bucket and O’Neale’s make at 11:02 gave the Bears their biggest lead to that point at 58-54.
Once again WVU tied it at 58 with 4:59 to go, but a Baylor 9-1 run had the Bears ahead 67-59 with 7:59 to go.
Eron Harris drilled back-to-back 3s to pull the Mountaineers within 67-65, with 7:13 left.
West Virginia (15-12, 7-7), lost for the third time in the last four games.
The Mountaineers were without third-leading scorer Terry Henderson (13.1 points per game) who was out with an illness, according to WVU coach Bob Huggins.
In his stead came Harris, the league’s third leading scorer (17.6). Harris connected on 9 of 17 shots, including 6 of 9 from distance, to finish with 32 points.
Harris’ career scoring high is 33 points, set on numerous occasions. Juwan Staten added 16 for WVU.
Baylor out-rebounded WVU 34-31 and owned a 38-12 differential in points in the paint.
The game was close because of the Mountaineers’ effort at the free-throw line and from beyond the arc.
WVU knocked down 11 of 21 3-point attempts (52.4 percent) and 20 of 25 (80 percent) foul shots. In total, the Mountaineers knocked down 22 field goals.
Baylor, meanwhile, bucketed 32 of 59 field goal attempts, 9 of 20 from long range and was 15 of 21 from the line.