MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Baylor's inside game and someone named Royce O'Neale were simply too much for West Virginia Saturday at the Coliseum.
The first part of that equation ? Well, the Mountaineers knew they would have to overcome that. They'd done it already once this season, but couldn't do it twice.
The second part? O'Neale? Well, that was a surprise in Baylor's 88-75 victory.
"He wasn't really scouted as a shooter,'' West Virginia's Eron Harris said. "We wanted to see if he could make one. But he ended up making more than that.''
Indeed, O'Neale, a 6-foot-6 junior who played last season at Denver and got an NCAA waiver when he transferred, is averaging just six points for the Bears and in 26 games this season had scored in double figures just three times, all in November. But against West Virginia he was 8 for 8 shooting, including four 3-pointers. He had 22 points, six rebounds and six assists.
"I think he made as many 3-pointers as he has all year,'' Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins said.
Well, that wasn't entirely true, but when a guy who is averaging just over one 3-pointer every two games - O'Neale had 15 in the Bears' first 26 games - it becomes a problem.
And that problem may have cost WVU dearly.
That's because the loss was a staggering blow to whatever NCAA tournament chances the Mountaineers might have been entertaining. West Virginia (15-12, 7-7 Big 12) has now lost two in a row after a 4-1 surge brought it renewed hope and still must play some of the league's best teams.
WVU's final four games begin with a Wednesday night game at No. 17 Iowa State, followed by a home game with last-place TCU, a trip to Oklahoma and the home finale March 8 against No. 8 Kansas.
Baylor, meanwhile, won its fourth in a row after a rather prolonged slide had nearly erased its NCAA tournament hopes. The Bears (18-9, 6-8) had started 12-1 and were ranked as high as No. 7 before losing eight of their first 10 Big 12 games.
Baylor also avoided a sweep by the Mountaineers this season. West Virginia won 66-64 last month in Texas.
Just as significant as O'Neale's contribution, though, were these two items. First, Baylor was able to use its size advantage and outscore West Virginia a whopping 38-12 in the paint. That came a week after Texas had done the same by outscoring the Mountaineers 46-14 inside.
The second part of that equation was directly linked to the first. West Virginia did very little to make things difficult for Baylor inside, and that's what upset Huggins most of all.