"When Chery plays well, that takes some of the focus off those bigs.''
For the season, Chery is averaging 10.2 points and 4.9 assists. But lately the 5-11 junior college transfer has been Baylor's glue. In a win over Kansas State last Saturday he had just the sixth triple-double in school history with 20 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in 44 minutes of a double-overtime game. He's only been fully healthy for the last two games -- overtime wins against Kansas State and Oklahoma State -- and has averaged 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds in an average of 39 minutes.
Not all of Baylor's issues are centered on Chery, of course, but the fact is that the Bears began the season 12-1, losing only to Syracuse in Hawaii. Then Baylor went 2-8 to start Big 12 play before winning the last three. Chery's health - the most recent issue was a case of turf toe - had something to do with it.
"They were 12-1 when he was playing really well and then he got hurt,'' Huggins said. "Everybody's got to guard Heslip [on the perimeter], but when you also have to guard [Chery] it really opens things up for the bigs.''
As for the Mountaineers, it would seem imperative that they overcome Chery and the Bears today if they have any hopes of hanging on to their chances for an NCAA tournament berth. At 15-11 and without any sort of quality non-conference wins, West Virginia might have to get to 11 Big 12 wins and then play well in the league tournament in order to salvage an NCA tournament berth.
Tossing away a home game against another team fighting for its postseason life would not reflect well on WVU's resume.
"I think we're at that point where we have to win games,'' said Huggins, whose team also has road games at Iowa State and Oklahoma and home games with TCU and Kansas remaining. "We won some games and got ourselves back in the hunt and then we didn't play very well [in a loss at] Texas. I don't think it's any secret we put ourselves behind the 8 ball. We've got to win games.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.