WACO, Texas (AP) Taurean Prince has turned into quite a scorer, Rico Gathers keeps pounding opponents and No. 19 Baylor is going into March on a nice roll.
Prince scored 20 points for his 13th consecutive double-figure scoring game, Gathers had another double-double and the Bears won their fourth consecutive game, leading throughout in a 78-66 victory Saturday over injury-plagued No. 20 West Virginia.
”It helps a lot more when you have 12 to 13 guys telling you to shoot when you’re open,” said Prince, a junior who is Baylor’s sixth man. ”When they have that type of confidence in you, the confidence in yourself starts to build off that.”
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Gathers had 17 points and 10 rebounds, his league-leading 15th double-double this season – more than twice as many as any other Big 12 player. Royce O’Neale had 18 points and seven assists for Baylor (22-7, 10-6 Big 12), while freshman Al Freeman added 10 points.
Prince and O’Neale, who are roommates, both had four 3-pointers.
”They’ve got a Nerf hoop in there, so they’re spending extra time in there working on their game,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. ”But Royce is an unselfish player, a great passer. I think (Prince) has really improved his level of play and is taking better control of the basketball and making simpler plays.”
With two games left in the regular season, Baylor and West Virginia are tied with Iowa State for third place in the Big 12 behind Kansas and Oklahoma. The top four teams get a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
Baylor led by as many as 19 points before halftime against the Mountaineers (22-7, 10-6), who were playing without leading scorer Juwan Staten and lost team captain Gary Browne to an injury less than 3 minutes into the game.
Coach Bob Huggins said afterward that he considered Staten day to day, but hadn’t spoken to the doctor about Browne, who had an ice bag wrapped around his left foot after Gathers rolled over his leg while they went for a loose ball.
”We had nine turnovers in the first half and most of them were live ball turnovers. That killed us. That killed us in the first half,” Huggins said. ”You can’t make live ball turnovers. We just had guys who hadn’t been out there really by themselves. And it’s hard to make any adjustments.”
Freshman guard Jevon Carter had 25 points with seven 3-pointers to lead the Mountaineers, who had also won three in a row. Their winning streak included a home win over league-leading Kansas, where they play Tuesday night.
Staten wasn’t even in uniform. Huggins indicated to the team’s radio crew before the game that Staten, who was fifth in the Big 12 with 14.5 points a game, had a combination of swelling in his left knee and a groin issue. The senior guard left a win over Texas on Tuesday night for unknown reasons, but re-entered and finished.
Browne was hurt in a collision with Gathers while going for a loose ball. The 275-pound post player slid going for the ball and rolled onto the left leg of the 195-pound WVU guard. Browne immediately grabbed his leg in pain. He was helped off the court and later returned to the bench with an ice bag wrapped around his left foot.
Daxter Miles Jr. had 11 points for WVU, and Jonathan Holton had 10 rebounds.
BEATING THE RANKED
After a 79-70 win at No. 12 Iowa State on Wednesday night, the Bears now have consecutive wins over Top 25 teams for the first time in school history. Their six wins against ranked teams are also a team record for a single season, and includes another win over West Virginia three weeks ago.
UP BY SIX
Baylor jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the game. Going into Saturday’s game, Baylor, No. 1 Kentucky and No. 3 Gonzaga were the only NCAA Division I teams to lead by at least six points in every game this season. The Bears also won their 40th consecutive home game when they built a lead of at least 10 points.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers two largest halftime deficits were in games against Baylor, which led 45-29 at halftime Saturday. That equaled their halftime deficit Feb. 7 at home against Baylor, which had an early 23-3 lead in that game, led 46-30 at the break and won 87-69.
Baylor: The Bears have a 6-1 series lead against West Virginia. … Gathers, a junior, has 22 career double-doubles. ”He can handle a pounding,” Drew said. ”Rico likes a physical game.”
West Virginia plays at No. 8 Kansas on Tuesday night.