WACO, Texas – Juwan Staten made up for all those missed free throws with a game-winning drive for West Virginia.
Staten drove the baseline for a reverse layup with 3.1 seconds left, after missing three free throws in a 74-second span, and the Mountaineers held on for a 66-64 win at slumping Baylor Tuesday night.
“I was shocked,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said of the late misses by Staten, who made only 1 of 6 free throws. “After he missed the front end, I thought he would step up and make those two.”
Despite the struggles from the line, Staten finished with 15 points and nine assists, both game highs. He was 7-of-13 from the field.
The Bears tied the game three times after halftime, including at 64 when Rico Gathers made only the second of his two free throw attempt with 36 seconds left before the final possession by West Virginia (12-9, 4-4 Big 12).
Gathers said things would have been a little different had he made both free throws for the lead.
“If I made that free throw, and Staten comes down and goes to the hole, I foul him and take my fifth foul,” Gathers said. “He had just missed two.”
Kenny Chery banked in what would have been a game-winning 3-pointer for Baylor (13-7, 1-6), but it came after the buzzer sounded. Officials looked at replay to confirm that he didn’t get the shot off in time.
Baylor coach Scott Drew said that wasn’t the planned play. The Bears were playing for overtime, especially when Cory Jefferson got wide open underneath the basket.
“We didn’t execute,” Drew said. “Look at the replay, I think we’ve got a dunk. ... I sure like my odds with Cory making a dunk.”
The Bears lost their fifth straight, the longest losing streak since dropping six in a row five years ago. They have lost three in a row at the Ferrell Center after a 13-game home winning streak.
“The frustration is definitely there. The main thing after a game like this is to look at our fight to try to win,” Gathers said. “Everybody was on task. Really and truly, the game wasn’t decided until the last 30 seconds.”
The Mountaineers had gone nearly 5 minutes without scoring, blowing an eight-point lead in the process, before Staten’s game-winning shot.
They hadn’t scored since two free throws by Harris with 4:55 left for a 64-56 lead.
West Virginia, which won only three Big 12 road games all last season, has already won three times in five conference games away from home this year.
But Baylor’s last lead was 9-8 only 5 minutes into the game, though the Bears got even three times in the second half without ever being able to push ahead.
Remi Dibo added 13 points, while Eron Harris had 12 and Terry Henderson 11 for West Virginia, which scored 18 points off 17 turnovers by Baylor.
“The turnovers hurt, especially them converting those turnovers into points because we’re so spread out,” Brady Heslip said. “It’s hard to get back and stop transition on a live-ball turnover.”
The Bears didn’t score any points off the six West Virginia turnovers.
Heslip had 13 points to lead Baylor, including four 3-pointers, while Taurean Prince had 11 points and Chery 10. Gathers had eight points and 12 rebounds.
Heslip’s 3-pointer got Baylor with 64-63 with 1:08 left, and Staten missed two free throws with 49 seconds left.
Baylor had earlier gotten even at 47-all after scoring seven consecutive points in a wild 3-minute segment.
Staten couldn’t convert a putback after a 3-pointer by Harris rattled out, but Harris then stole the ball from Gary Franklin near midcourt. In a scramble to get the ball back, Franklin was called for a questionable intentional foul.
After Staten missed both free throws, West Virginia kept the ball. Harris appeared to get away with a charge that knocked Franklin down. Franklin was still in a sitting position on the floor when the ball literally fell in his lap after Harris’ shot was blocked from behind by Cory Jefferson.
When Jefferson penetrated for a bank shot, it was tied at 47 with 12:21 left.