• October 1, 2014

Bears suddenly fighting to earn NCAA berth

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Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 4:30 am

WACO — Baylor senior post Cory Jefferson said his goal is to get the Bears back into the NCAA Tournament in his final season in Waco. 

But before Baylor can make the Big Dance, they have to earn their dancing shoes and the first step to doing that is beating the West Virginia Mountaineers tonight at the Ferrell Center.

“We’ve been on a bad losing streak so we’re trying to come together as a team and figure out what we have to do as a team to get that over with,” Jefferson said.

Baylor and West Virginia tip off at 6 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN 2.

Baylor opens the game on a four-game losing streak and has dropped five of its last six overall.

Along with Jefferson, former Harker Heights standout Royce O’Neale is also in the starting lineup.

Baylor is looking to avoid its first three-game home losing streak since 2009. After Saturday’s 74-60 loss to Texas, the players held a meeting while coach Scott Drew addressed the media.

“I think we just need that one win and then after that, we’ll turn it around more,” O’Neale said. “We’re starting to know what we have to do, pretty much we have to go do it.”

Jefferson enters the game averaging 12.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while O’Neale is scoring 6.1 points, dishing out 2.7 assists and hauling 3.7 rebounds per contest.

Baylor swept the season series a year ago, but Jefferson said these Mountaineers are more formidable.

Baylor will have the height advantage in the frontcourt with Jefferson (6-foot-9), O’Neale (6-6), Taurean Prince (6-7) and Isaiah Austin (7-1) going against Kevin Noreen (6-10) and Devin Williams (6-9).

“Just like every other team in the Big 12, they’re a physical team,” Jefferson said. “We’re going to have to contain them just like all of the other teams. Contain them in the paint and keep them from getting easies (points).”

The Baylor defense looks to do what it couldn’t do against Texas, hold guards in check.

The Bears allowed UT’s Isaiah Taylor to dribble into the lane frequently and put up a career-high 27 points.

“We haven’t defended well in conference and we haven’t shot well in conference,” Drew said. “That’s a complete flip from what the nonconference was when we defended well and shot well.”

Mountaineers sophomore guard Eron Harris is second in the Big 12 in scoring with a 17.6 points per game average and in 3-point field goals made while junior Juwan Staten is scoring 19.1 points per conference game, almost two points more than his regular season average.

“They’re pretty aggressive and fast,” O’Neale said. “They like to play hard on defense. We’ve got to take care of the ball and take some more shots. That’ll help us out.”

West Virginia, like Texas, will likely go with a three-guard lineup of Harris, Staten and Terry Henderson.

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