WACO, Texas (AP) — Baylor coach Scott Drew couldn’t even wait to get to the podium for his postgame session with reporters Monday night before expressing his excitement.
“It’s a good night for the Baylor Bears,” Drew said.
LJ Cryer helped make sure of that, scoring 26 points to lead ninth-ranked Baylor to a 79-65 win over West Virginia. Coupled with No. 6 Texas’ 74-67 loss to Texas Tech, the victory lifted the Bears into a tie for the Big 12 lead.
Cryer was 8 for 11 from 3-point range to lead the Bears (20-6, 9-4 Big 12), who have won four straight games and 10 of their last 11 after an 0-3 start in the conference.
“The ball felt real good coming off my hand,” Cryer said. “I got a lot of great looks, so credit to my teammates. When I get those looks, I feel like I’m going to knock it down every time. It went my way tonight.”
Emmitt Matthews Jr. scored 17 points to lead West Virginia, which was 7 for 21 from beyond the arc.
Adam Flagler added 13 points and Jalen Bridges had 12 for Baylor, which shot 51% from the floor and was 14 for 27 from 3-point range. Keyonte George led the Bears with nine rebounds and seven assists.
“We didn’t let them do anything,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “They made tough shots.”
It was the Bears’ defense that allowed them to take control.
West Virginia (15-11, 4-9) made seven field goals in a row to build an 18-11 lead with 11:38 to go in the first half, but was just 2 of 18 the rest of the half, including an 0 for 11 stretch that lasted 8:51.
Baylor outscored West Virginia 19-6 during that span and carried a 36-29 lead into halftime.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers dropped their second straight despite winning the rebounding battle 29-25, including an 14-11 edge on the offensive end. West Virginia also took advantage of Baylor miscues to the tune of 18-4 on points off turnovers, but it couldn’t withstand the Bears’ onslaught from outside.
Baylor: The Bears had reason to be concerned about Monday being a trap game after an emotional road win over then-No. 17 TCU and with their next three games coming against No. 5 Kansas, No. 12 Kansas State and No. 6 Texas. But they overcame a flat and sloppy start and never trailed after a Flagler 3-pointer with 8:08 left in the first half.
GETTING IT DONE DIFFERENTLY
The first time Baylor and West Virginia met, George posted a career-high 32 points in an 83-78 win Jan. 11 in Morgantown, West Virginia.
On Monday, George finished with six points on 1-of-4 shooting, but he still made his mark on the game with nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
“I think he did a great job taking what the defense gave him,” Drew said. “The first time there, he got going. Tonight, it was LJ that was going. That’s the sign of a good team is when you have someone who’s hot, you don’t freeze him out and say it’s my turn. You feed the hot hand.”
West Virginia will begin a two-game homestand Saturday against Texas Tech.
Baylor will open a two-game trip Saturday against No. 5 Kansas.