WACO, Texas — With barely anytime to react or recover from an eventful weekend, No. 21 West Virginia plays at Baylor on Tuesday night.
The college basketball world, and especially the Big 12 are still buzzing about the fireworks of Saturday night.
Baylor defeated a top 10 opponent for the second straight Saturday by edging No. 7 Texas Tech, 59-57. Meanwhile, West Virginia blew an 8-point lead in the final 4 minutes as the Mountaineers fell at Kansas, 77-69.
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West Virginia coach Bob Huggins put the blame squarely on the officials following his team’s loss to the Jayhawks. Kansas made 26 of 35 free throws while the Mountaineers made 1 of 2.
“I’ve been doing this 40 years,” Huggins said in his postgame press conference. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where we shot two free throws. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where the disparity was 35-2.”
Huggins, who was ejected from the Kansas game with 7.9 seconds remaining, suggested that the referees should be answering questions about the calls they made and didn’t make. College basketball referees can be questioned by a pool reporter about specific controversial calls, but the West Virginia coach didn’t single out any one specific play.
The free-throw shooting aside, West Virginia went more than three minutes without scoring down the stretch in the loss to the Jayhawks. The Mountaineers hit just 2 of 9 shots in the last four minutes as Kansas went on a 19-6 run.
There’s more bad news for West Virginia (19-8, 8-6 Big 12) as it must stay on the road and face the hottest team in the Big 12.
Baylor (17-10, 7-7) has won five straight and gone from a mediocre campaign to part of the conversation for the NCAA Tournament.
Bears coach Scott Drew said his team stayed upbeat even when they lost 8 of 10 games from the end of December through January.
“Anytime you go through a tough spell like we did, one of two things happen: You either become closer or you start to point fingers.” Drew said. “Our leaders really did a good job to make sure it was the come closer rather than the point fingers. And hence, we’ve been able to win a couple close games, get confidence, get momentum.”
However, the Baylor players seem to be aware that, while they’ve climbed up from the bottom part of the Big 12 standings, there’s still plenty of work left with games at TCU and Kansas State and one more home game versus Oklahoma following the West Virginia tilt.
“The story stays the same for us,” Baylor forward Jo Lual-Acuil said. “We kind of dug ourselves in a hole and every game is still very important to us. It doesn’t mean anything if we lose tomorrow. The biggest thing is to protect your home court.”
Huggins had a similar challenge for his team after the frustrating loss to Kansas.
“It wasn’t (the players) fault and the best way to respond to this is go win the rest of ’em,” Huggins said.