WVU Absorbs Stinging Loss at No. 3 Kansas

  • By John Antonik
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  • February 14, 2017 12:29 AM
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No. 3 Kansas used a 21-7 run over the remaining 2:20 to send the game to overtime, and then outscored ninth-ranked West Virginia 13-9 in the extra session to pull out a near-miraculous 84-80 victory Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.
Frank Mason III scored 24 points -16 coming from the free throw line, and Devonte’ Graham contributed 18 to help Kansas avoid back-to-back losses at home for the first time since 1989.
The Jayhawks lost to Iowa State, 92-89, in overtime last Saturday.
“They made shots - they made shots they weren’t making,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said afterward.
The Mountaineers, looking to win for the first time ever in Lawrence, was in control of the game leading by 14 points, 64-50, with three minutes remaining.
Then, they self-destructed when Kansas went to a full-court press after Mason’s 3 pulled the Jayhawks to within nine, 64-55.
Two Daxter Miles Jr. missed free throws with 2:06 left opened the door for Graham to make it a six-point game, 64-58.
However, West Virginia still appeared to be in good shape with 1:07 remaining when Tarik Phillip got two free throws to go down to make it 69-62.
But Graham’s two free throws with 52 seconds left reduced West Virginia’s lead to five. Here, Landon Lucas stole the inbound pass and followed Frank Mason’s miss to make it a three-point game with 47 seconds left.
Esa Ahmad’s two free throws briefly put West Virginia ahead, 71-66, but Graham came down and drilled another 3 with 36 seconds left to make it a two-point game, 71-69.
Another West Virginia turnover, this one by Phillip, led to two Mason free throws with 21 seconds to go.
He made both, knotting the score at 71.
“We just didn’t look up the floor,” Huggins said of his players’ inability to handle the Kansas pressure. “We had guys open up the floor. They had all five guys on that side of half court and all we had to do was catch it and run away, not bury our head and get trapped.
“We’ve got a timeout left, the conversation was if nobody is open and you get trapped call timeout and don’t throw the ball away and we throw like a hand-grenade up in the air that Beetle (James Bolden) can’t get to out of bounds.”
Following Mason’s free throws, the Mountaineers brought the ball across the midcourt line and called timeout with 16 seconds left.
When play resumed, instead of going to the rim to try and get a close one at the basket or draw a foul, Phillip settled for a long step-back 3 from the wing with two seconds left that drew the back of the iron.
Freshman Beetle Bolden grabbed the offensive rebound but could not get a shot off before the horn sounded.
“Every time they drive it to the basket it’s a foul so I’m saying ‘drive it, drive it, drive it’ and we settle for a 3,” said Huggins. “It makes no sense. We just didn’t do what we had to do to win.”
Immediately in overtime, Graham nailed the fourth of his five 3s and another Phillip turnover led to Josh Jackson’s driving layup and a five-point lead. That put West Virginia in chase-mode for the remainder of the game.
Graham hit his fifth triple to give Kansas an eight-point lead, 79-71, its biggest of the game.
A Teyvon Myers 3 and an Adrian layup got the deficit to two, 82-80, with seven seconds left, but Mason made two more free throws to put the game on ice.
West Virginia (20-6, 8-5) began the game on a 10-0 run, led by seven at halftime, and seemingly had things well under control as the clock hit the three-minute mark when Phillip’s driving layup made it 64-50.
But turnovers were the story of tonight’s game. West Virginia committed 21 in all - 16 following the first half and four coming in the final minute of regulation when it was trying to preserve the lead.
Turnovers were also the culprit in the Mountaineers’ 79-75 loss at Kansas State last month when they turned it over a season-high 23 times.
Ahmad led West Virginia with 20. Phillip added 18.
Tonight’s loss was particularly damaging because the door was open to close the gap on league-leader Kansas with a rare victory in Lawrence, and also because second-place Baylor lost earlier tonight at Texas Tech.
Now, West Virginia falls back to 8-5 in Big 12 play and is three games behind the Jayhawks in the loss column with just five regular season games remaining.
West Virginia’s six defeats this year have been by four points to Temple, by one at Texas Tech, by two against Oklahoma, by four at Kansas State, by seven at home against Oklahoma State and now tonight’s four-point loss to Kansas.
Three of the six losses have come in overtime.
It was also the second time in three years that West Virginia has lost in overtime in Lawrence. In 2015, WVU led by as many as 18 points in the first half before falling, 76-69.
The Mountaineers have another tough game coming up on Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum against the Red Raiders, now 16-9 following tonight’s victory over Baylor.