MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - When West Virginia and Baylor played 3 1/2 weeks ago in Texas, the last significant moment of the game was Juwan Staten's tie-breaking layup with three seconds to play that gave the Mountaineers a 66-64 win, right?
Well, sort of.
Actually, it was what happened after Staten's shot that could have been even more noteworthy. The only thing that didn't make it so was that when Kenny Chery raced down the floor and sank a 30-foot, 3-point desperation shot, he released the ball just after the buzzer went off.
The game officials reviewed the play, confirmed that the shot was late and that was it. West Virginia was off on what would be a 4-1 tear that revived its season and Baylor had lost its fifth in a row.
Now normally that would be just a footnote as the teams prepare to meet again today at the Coliseum. And in truth it is, except for one thing. Chery's failure to get his shot off in time is about the last thing he's done that didn't turn out well. And it is his success in recent weeks that has Baylor back in the NCAA tournament picture.
"[The difference is] Chery. I don't think there's any doubt,'' WVU coach Bob Huggins said of the Baylor point guard. "He started out playing really well and then he got hurt and didn't play quite as well for a stretch and now he's starting to play really well again. And when he plays really well, they're really good.''
Indeed, while Baylor is constructed around more notable players - namely versatile 7-foot-1 Isaiah Austin, rugged big man Cory Jefferson and deadly shooter Brady Heslip - it is Chery that makes the Bears go.
And as West Virginia (15-11, 7-6 Big 12) and Baylor (17-9, 5-8) prepare to meet at 1:30 p.m. today at the Coliseum, Chery is making the Bears go.
"Honestly, I think they've been pretty consistent,'' Huggins said of Baylor's big men, a group that also includes 6-8, 270-pound sophomore Rico Gathers, who has been particularly difficult for West Virginia to handle. "But when Kenny Chery plays, you can't get help [away to the others] and so they get isolated. And all three of those guys are talented guys.