Waco, Texas – The No. 8-ranked Baylor Bears hosted West Virginia Mountaineers in a Big 12 contest and honored the 95th anniversary of the Immortal Ten. Baylor players wore the names of those ten players on the back of their jerseys. Ten players, coaches, and fans were killed in 1927 when the team bus carrying 22 people was hit by a train while traveling to Austin.
Baylor came off a disappointing loss to Alabama in the Big 12/SEC challenge and looking to get back on track to keep pace with the Kansas Jayhawks. West Virginia came into tonight’s contest riding a five-game skid and in desperate need of a win after losing to Arkansas on Saturday in the Big 12/SEC challenge. The Mountaineers would not forget about being overrun by the Bears at home and hoped to get revenge to climb themselves out of their slump with a win.
The contest would be the usual dog fight we have come to expect in Big 12 conference play where no night is easy. With two better defensive teams facing off, you would think the offense would be scarce. But in a back-and-forth fight, two guards would battle to get their team in the win column. We would see some fantastic guard play from James Akinjo and Taz Sherman. Sherman would not finish the game after colliding with Jeremy Sochan and leaving the court woozy. The Mountaineers would not climb to victory due to Akinjo, who would score 25 points in leading the Bears to an 81-77 win.
The first half would start with Sherman stealing the ball from Akinjo to get the first of his 15 first-half points, followed by Akinjo nailing a three. From there on, the guards would dual it out. Flo Thamba would show his presence in the paint early, scoring six points in the first half. Baylor’s defense picked up early and would spark 7-0 run. West Virginia would cool down Baylor after the media timeout with constant pressure. They held Baylor to 36 percent shooting from the field and 15.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc in the half. Baylor was missing the offensive firepower of Adam Flager (knee) and LJ Cryer (foot), who were both out with injuries. Matthew Mayer would be nothing like he was when they last faced the Mountaineers and struggled shooting going 0-for-4 from the field and 0-for-2 from beyond the arc in the half.
Sherman was electrifying on the offensive end, scoring from all three levels shooting 5-for-8 from the field and 4-for-7 from beyond the arc in the first half as West Virginia closed the lead to one with 7:38 remaining (22-21). Baylor would hold on briefly before West Virginia took the lead (31:30) off a dribble pull-up three by Sherman with 3:16 to go in the half. Sean McNeil would contribute seven points to help Sherman lead the Mountaineers to a 39-31 lead that was finished off by Seth Wilson knocking down a three to finish the half.
In the second half, Sherman would start where he left off, opening the action with a jumper to extend the Mountaineer lead to 10. Both teams would continue to find offense as Baylor’s bench led by Tchamwa Tchatchoua’s 14 points would outscore West Virginia 27-15. Kendall Brown would contribute nine points scoring on off-ball movement and in transitions. Sochan would also get going adding 13 points by showing his versatility on offense, attacking the basket, and shooting from outside. Sherman and Akinjo would continue to battle from the start of the second half, being the offensive firepower for their teams. Baylor would try to dig out of their hole, but Sherman would find a way to answer the call. Mayer would get two of his nine second-half points of a steal and transition finish. He would also be vital in sparking the Bears to take a 73-69 lead after an offensive rebound and put back, followed by a three-pointer.
Unfortunately, Sherman would get injured at the 3:42 mark after a no-call collision with Sochan and finish with a game-high 29 points on 10-for-15 shooting from the field and 6-for-11 from beyond the arc. Until that point, Sherman had made a case why NBA executives need to notice that he can score and run a team. However, Baylor would end up being too much for West Virginia as the energetic, poised Akinjo controlled the game for the Bears finishing 7-for-17 from the field and 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.
Baylor travels to Kansas to face the No. 10 Jayhawks on Saturday, February 5th, while West Virginia hosts No. 14 Texas Tech.