Jevon Carter took the inbounds pass, dribbled twice and let the ball fly from a few feet outside the red, black and white Big 12 Championship logo centered on the Sprint Center court.
Unlike Buddy Hield’s memorable half-court heave and leap onto a press-row table two years ago in this tournament — which would have given Oklahoma a buzzer-beating win over Carter’s West Virginia team in the semifinals had it not been waived off — this three-pointer counted … and no bank was needed.
Carter’s swish sent the Mountaineers into the locker room with a six-point halftime lead, which was all they needed to put away Baylor 78-65 on Thursday night in front of an announced crowd of 17,653. Third-seeded West Virginia, 23-9, moved on to the Big 12 semifinals against No. 2 seed Texas Tech.
"That's a big momentum changer," Carter said of his three-pointer. "We came out and played with the same energy from the first half."
Baylor, the No. 6 seed, which fell to 18-14, remains on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The contenders for at-large bids grew Thursday as Middle Tennessee State lost in the Conference USA quarterfinals, raising the possibility of an additional multiple-bid league.
The Mountaineers have reached the last two Big 12 title games, losing to Kansas and Iowa State, after losing in each of the their first three trips to Kansas City. Coach Bob Huggins improved to 6-6 in the Big 12 Tournament, 5-5 with West Virginia.
To Huggins, the idea Baylor, or Oklahoma State, Texas or Oklahoma for that matter, could miss the NCAA Tournament is a non-starter.
“Why are they on the bubble,” he said. “I don't understand why we would have four on the bubble. We have been all year long, the best conference in the country.
“You put any of those other people in here that are so-called 'bubble teams' and see what they do playing 18 games in this league.”
After halftime, West Virginia went on an 11-0 run and led 40-27 after Baylor scored the first four points of half and extended its lead to as many as 19. The Bears were within 2 early in the half before Daxter Miles Jr. hit three consecutive three-pointers.
Carter forced a 10-second violation on Baylor guard Jake Lindsey with the Mountaineers up 13 with 11:08 to play and flexed his muscles. WVU was up 61-42 with 7:01 left.
Esa Ahmad led the Mountaineers with 21 points. Miles Jr. had 19 before fouling out with 2:54 left. Carter finished with 18 and 11 assists.
Baylor led by as many as nine in the first half but the Mountaineers broke out of two scoring droughts for a 29-23 halftime lead.
Kicked off by a Nuni Omot three, Baylor ripped off a 6-2 run for an 11-7 lead as West Virginia went cold for more than 4 minutes and turned the ball over four times. Omot hit another three in a 7-0 Baylor run while WVU couldn’t find the hoop for 3:13 and trailed 18-9.
But the Mountaineers closed the half on a 20-5 run, keyed by Carter. His steal led to an Ahmad dunk that gave WVU a 21-20 lead with 3:55 left. Baylor’s King McClure threw down a dunk with 3 seconds left, setting up Carter’s long three at the buzzer.
Baylor, which averaged 11.6 turnovers per game this season, coughed it up 12 times in the first half and 22 for the game.
"It's a great press," said Manu Lecomte, who led the Bears with 27 points, 22 in the second half after the game was out of reach.
Terry Maston added 11 and Omot finished with eight.
"I think fatigue and frustration sets in especially when you start to turn it over a lot," Maston said.
Tickets remain available for the semifinals, the Big 12 announced late Thursday, and the Sprint Center box office opens at 10 a.m. Friday. The first semifinal features top-seeded Kansas against No. 4 seed K-State and tips off at 6 p.m., followed by WVU vs. Tech.