WVU fades late, loses at No. 8 Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) – With about five minutes remaining Saturday, West Virginia trailed No. 8 Kansas by four points, and Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said later his team had the game right where it wanted it.
Then the Jayhawks scored seven points in a little over a minute, part of a game-ending 14-4 run that resulted in an 83-69 victory that kept Huggins winless in seven tries against Kansas.
“We just had some guys didn’t play very well, which happens,” said Huggins, whose stretch of futility has come with three different schools. “We just didn’t make any open shots.”
Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points, Wayne Selden Jr. had 17 and reserve Tarik Black added 11 points for the Jayhawks (9-1 Big 12, 18-5), who honored the 40th anniversary of their 1974 Final Four team by taking a two-game lead over surprising Texas in the conference race.
Juwan Staten scored 22 points and Harris had 17 for West Virginia, which dealt with foul trouble nearly the entire game. At one point, the Mountaineers had five players with four fouls apiece, and Brandon Watkins and Devin Williams eventually fouled out.
“The hard part about not having depth is we have to play Staten so long, we have to play Harris so long,” Huggins said. “I don’t think it affects us in this game, but it may affect us on Monday (against Iowa State).”
Still, the Mountaineers hung around until late in the game.
They closed within 69-65 on two free throws by Harris, who briefly left after turning his ankle earlier in the game. Another free throw by Staten a few minutes later got them within 72-66 with 3:49 to go, silencing another packed crowd at Allen Fieldhouse.
That’s when Joel Embiid, the Jayhawks’ talented 7-foot freshman, scored in the paint. Naadir Tharpe drained a 3-pointer on their next trip down the court, and Selden sliced into the lane for a layup that made it 77-66 and forced Huggins to call a timeout.
Just like that, a nip-and-tuck game began turning into a blowout with the Jayhawks enjoying a comfortable cushion over the final 3 minutes.
“We turned it over too many times,” said Huggins, whose team finished with 14 for the game. “We had more unforced turnovers than we normally have.”
The first half was far more entertaining than the second, when the whistles really began. Kansas raced to an early lead, the Mountaineers answered with a trio of 3-pointers from Harris, and the Jayhawks slowly crept out to another lead when West Virginia suddenly went cold.
The Mountaineers didn’t make a field goal over the final 7:36 of the first half.
“It crippled us today because Terry (Henderson) didn’t do what Terry generally does and Remi (Dibo) didn’t make any,” Huggins said. “We just don’t have anybody to throw the ball to inside.”
The Jayhawks had plenty of moments of offensive ineptitude in their own right, keeping the game close. Gary Browne’s two free throws got West Virginia within five points late in the half, but Wiggins followed a miss by Brannen Green with a buzzer-beating dunk for a 43-36 lead.
Wiggins had 10 points in the first half, but he needed 12 shots to get them.
The superstar freshman did most of his damage in the second half by driving to the basket and getting fouled, finishing 7 of 10 from the free throw line – he was 6 of 14 from the field.
“I tried to be aggressive,” Wiggins said, “get into the lane, tried to get contact and get to the foul line, and get my teammates involved.”
The teams combined for 50 fouls and shot 65 free throws in a game that rarely went more than a minute without a whistle. More than once, multiple fouls were called on one trip down the court, turning long stretches of the second half into a free throw shooting contest.
The Jayhawks wound up 23 of 34 from the free throw line. West Virginia was 25 of 31.
“Their rebounding at the foul line hurt us,” Huggins said. “They go 1 for 2 from the foul line and then offensive rebounded at the foul line and score. Those are the things that really hurt you.”