Mountaineers challenge Bears in Big 12 Tournament action

Mar 12, 2015 - 2:57 PM Kansas City, MO ( - Quarterfinal-round action in the 2015 Big 12 Conference Tournament takes place on Thursday, with the first game pitting the fifth-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers against the fourth-seeded Baylor Bears.

The winner will advance to Friday's semifinals to face either ninth-seeded TCU or top-seeded Kansas.

West Virginia is seeking its first win in the Big 12 Tournament, the team only making two previous appearances. The Mountaineers, who are led by Big 12 Coach of the Year Bob Huggins, claimed a win over Oklahoma State in last Saturday's regular-season finale, putting the brakes on a brief two-game slide.

Baylor is hoping to redeem itself after losing to Iowa State in last year's tournament championship game, which was its second title tilt appearance in the last three years, and its third in the last six overall. The Bears have never won the crown, and they own a 14-17 record in the event all-time. They enter the postseason having won five of their last six games.

Baylor took both meetings between the teams during the regular season, and has now won three straight over West Virginia to take a 6-1 lead in the all-time series.

Despite being one of the worst shooting teams in the Big 12 this season (.411 overall, .316 3-point range), the Mountaineers are scoring 74.1 ppg. Their defensive effort allows foes to shoot 46.7 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from beyond the arc -- the latter two figures ranking them last in the conference. Juwan Staten (14.5 ppg, 4.6 apg) has been the team's go-to guy on most nights, but he has been hobbled by a knee injury and is listed as doubtful for this contest. That means that someone like Devin Williams (11.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg), Jevon Carter (8.5 ppg) or any a number of skilled, yet underutilized players will need to step up if the Mountaineers are to advance.

Baylor's offensive production (69.7 ppg) is considered rather pedestrian by Big 12 standards, but its effort at the defensive end has been top-notch as the team permits a league-low 60.0 ppg on the strength of its Big 12-best 29.8 percent allowance on 3-point field goal attempts. The Bears also lead the league in rebounding margin (+8.5), with Big 12 rebounding champ Rico Gathers (11.6 ppg, 11.7 rpg) leading the charge. As for the team's leading scorer, Taurean Prince (14.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg), he was named the conference's Sixth Man of the Year, and there are other consistent contributors for BU as well, including Kenny Chery (11.3 ppg, 4.0 apg) and Royce O'Neal (10.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.5 apg).

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