By Mickey Furfari
For the Times West Virginian
Baylor is next in the path of the West Virginia University men’s basketball team that seems to be on an honest-to-gosh roll.
The Mountaineers (12-11, 5-5 Big 12) take a three-game winning stretch to Waco, Texas, on Wednesday, for a 9 p.m. battle with the Bears (15-8, 6-4 Big 12).
The Bears were whipping Texas Tech 75-48 last Saturday, while WVU was beating TCU 63-50 in an impressive showing in Fort Worth, Texas.
That might well have been the Mountaineers’ finest win in the conference except being outrebounded 34-23. And it came in coach Bob Huggins’ 1,000th game of his highly successful career.
TCU was coming off a shocking upset win over No. 5 nationally ranked Kansas for its only league victory.
A 3-point goal at the buzzer gave WVU a 31-28 edge at halftime against TCU, which shot a sizzling 60 percent during the opening 20 minutes. But West Virginia limited the Horned Frogs to 25 percent in the second half.
“I thought we did a lot better defensively in the second half,” Huggins said. “I thought everyone was better offensively, too.”
But defense definitely was the focus at halftime. The Mountaineers may have done their best dogging of the year in sealing that win.
For only the fifth time this season, WVU shot 50 percent or better from the field (22 of 43 for 51.2 percent). The Mountaineers made 7 of 10 from 3-point range and cashed 12 of 18 free throws (66.7 percent).
Huggins admittedly was happy with this memorable victory. But he called only getting a mere five rebounds in the first half “a concern.”
However, 17 assists for 22 field goals certainly stuck out, as did eight steals and five blocked shots.
Three players whose last names start with the letter “H” led West Virginia in scoring. Freshman Terry Henderson had a game-high 17 points. Freshman Eron Harris followed with 14 points, and sophomore Jabarie Hinds tallied 12 points.
All three are guards.
Junior center Aaric Murray was the top rebounder for WVU with six. Hinds also had four assists and four steals.
“Our freshmen are going to make a whole lot of shots (as they grow older),” Huggins predicted. “They made plays around the basket.
“The exciting thing is we’re now 5-5 in the league. There are going to be some people lose (last Saturday).”
One more win would put the Mountaineers into fifth place in the Big 12 standings and two wins could tie the team for second place.
“We’re getting tougher,” Huggins noted. “We’re getting tougher. And sometimes I think being too nice in athletics is a detriment, and we’re getting tougher.”
In their only previous meeting, Baylor nipped West Virginia 83-81 in overtime at the Las Vegas Classic last season.