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WVU basketball: Staten's late layup saves West Virginia

WACO, Texas - In the moment, Juwan Staten and his West Virginia teammates could not have recognized and would not have believed that his two missed free throws with 48.1 seconds to go would actually win them Tuesday night's game here.

But those two misses in a game the Mountaineers led by one point, combined with the totality of Staten's unlikely 1-for-6 night at the foul line, led him to keep the ball in his hands in the final seconds.

Staten flipped in a reverse layup off the backboard with 3.1 seconds to go and Kenny Chery's 3-pointer that banked in and would have won the game for Baylor was instead still in his hands as the buzzer sounded and the Mountaineers escaped the Ferrell Center and a crowd of 5,529 with a 66-64 win.

"I felt like I let the team down missing a couple free throws and felt like I needed to do something," said Staten, who made a game-winner at home against Virginia Tech last season and missed a game-winner at home against Oklahoma State this season. "I pretty much knew I was the one who was going to take the shot. That was something I'd made up in my mind. I felt like I'd given the game away and it was up to me. I wouldn't sleep at night if I didn't do something to win that game."

Staten had 15 points, nine assists and just one turnover and played all 40 minutes. For a second straight game, the junior from Dayton, Ohio, didn't commit a foul. Eron Harris missed 10 of 14 shots, but had 12 points and Terry Henderson made three 3 on the way to 11 points. Remi Dibo came off the bench to make three 3s and score 13 points, the most he's had since scoring 19 against Loyola on Dec. 2.

The Mountaineers (12-9, 4-4 Big 12) finally beat a Big 12 team outside of the Texas-TCU-Texas Tech group that finished below them in the Big 12 standings last season, their first in the conference. They had just six turnovers and assisted on 16 of 24 baskets. After being outrebounded by 11 in the first half, WVU outrebounded Baylor by one in the second half and outscored the much taller and bigger Bears 24-14 in the paint.

"That's just the way we always play," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.

"Well, the way we always used to play. We're starting to play that way again."

The Bears (13-7, 1-6) have lost five in a row and find themselves out of the top 25 and not even receiving votes after they were ranked No. 7 before their first Big 12 game Jan. 7. Brady Heslip shot 4-for-6 from 3-point range and made things interesting with a late one. He finished with 13 points. Taurean Prince had 11 points off the bench and Chery added 10. Baylor's 7-foot Isaiah Austin and 6-foot-9 Cory Jefferson both had just six points and five rebounds.

Baylor committed 16 turnovers and the Mountaineers had a crucial 18-0 edge in points off turnovers.

"We did a bunch of things right, but we did a bunch of things wrong, too," Harris said. "At the end of the day, we did more things right than they did. That's why we won."

The Mountaineers could have made things easier at the end just as surely as it could have gone the other way for them. Staten's winner was the team's only basket in the final 5:25 and Chery was a beat away from releasing in time to make his shot count.

Things looked good when Dibo made a 3 and a jumper on consecutive possessions and Staten made two free throws to go up 64-56 with 4:55 to go, the largest for either team. Jefferson caught a break and a bounce when he tipped in a missed layup and Prince made two free throws after WVU took a full minute off the clock and missed two 3s.

Prince then fired a ball out of bounds over the head of wide-open Heslip before Staten, who was shooting 72.5 percent from the free-throw line, missed the front end of a one-and-one. Austin then turned the ball over again. The teams traded misses, but WVU somehow left Heslip open again for another 3 to cut WVU's lead to 64-63 with 1:08 remaining. Staten was fouled and missed his two free throws.

"I was shocked," Huggins said. "Shocked."

Harris wisely fouled Gathers under his basket before he could drop in an easy score. Gathers went 1-for-2 and Baylor finished 14-for-23 at the foul line. That proved costly when Staten dominated the dribble on the next possession and decided against passing to Henderson or Harris when they popped open outside. When a second defender jumped out to harass Harris late in the possession, Staten pounced.

"I wasn't surprised," Harris said. "We trust him to make decisions. Everyone knows he's going to make the right decision. I got open for him, but that's his decision and obviously he made the right one for us."

The Mountaineers, who play host to Kansas State (15-6, 5-3) at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, were burdened by early foul trouble for a second straight game. Devin Williams sat on the bench after committing fouls at the 17:32 and 16:59 marks. Harris joined him with his second foul at the 9:27 mark. Brandon Watkins, who backs up Williams, picked up his second foul at the 5:29 mark.

Those three did some damage while they were in, though. Williams started WVU's scoring with a three-point play. Watkins and Harris made back-to-back jumpers and Harris' 3 had WVU shooting 7-for-12 to start. That was all those three could muster, but they got some help from the bench, which had 12 points in the first half.

Dibo had eight of those with a pair of 3s and two free throws. His second 3 put the Mountaineers ahead 23-16, their largest lead of the half, with 6:43 left to go. He missed on the next possession and WVU would go 1-for-6 while Baylor tied the score with an 11-4 run.

The Mountaineers answered with free throws from Kevin Noreen and a pair of layups from Staten around a 3 from Henderson. The 36-33 halftime lead would have been larger, but WVU allowed offensive rebounds and baskets after two missed free throws in the final two minutes of the half. Both times the coaching staff warned Dibo to box out and both times his player grabbed the rebound as part of a 20-9 edge at halftime.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu.

 


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