No. 8 Kansas Pulls Away From West Virginia, 83-69
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Senior forward Tarik Black found his point guard right before he hit the ground, dishing off his offensive board in time for Naadir Tharpe to hit Wayne Selden, Jr. Ready and waiting, Selden knocked down the three-pointer that speared the final stretch of No. 8/9 Kansas’ 83-69 win against West Virginia Saturday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse.
West Virginia (14-10, 6-5 Big 12) never lost its fight, cutting the game to four points with five minutes to play, but a 7-0 late Kansas run put the Mountaineers away for good. Ten games through the Big 12 Conference season, Kansas (18-5, 9-1 Big 12) took a two-game lead in the league race with the win.
Black showed his specialty as a game changer, coming off the bench with 11 points on 3-of-3 shooting, four rebounds and drew a charge. Sophomore forward Jamari Traylor, seemingly cut from the same cloth, also made the most of his minutes with seven points and a pair of steals.
The starters also had plenty to say about Saturday’s decision. Freshman guard Andrew Wiggins set the tone with 19 points, including 7-for-10 from the line. Selden was right behind him with 17 points, including a 3-of-5 from three-point territory. For the second-straight game freshman center Joel Embiid waited till the second half to notch his first points, but that didn’t deter the seven-footer from chalking up his sixth double-double of the year with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Embiid’s three blocks puts him at 60 for the season and just two shy of the KU freshman record (Eric Chenowith, 62, 1998).
Squaring off against two of the Big 12’s top-three leading scorers in WVU’s Juwan Staten and Eron Harris, the Kansas defense had its work cut out for them. The duo tallied 22 of West Virginia’s 36 first-half points, and went on to account for nearly half of the team’s point total with 22 and 17 points, respectively. Aside from his status as the second-best scorer in the league, Staten also leads his Big 12 counterparts in assists – but didn’t on Saturday. Freshman guard Frank Mason led the floor with five assists and no turnovers.
Not one to cough up the ball often, West Virginia committed its season average for turnovers per game (9.7) in the first half alone and finished the afternoon with 14, just two off of its season high. Meanwhile, an aggressive KU team recorded fewer turnovers than its opponent (12) for just the second time this conference season.
An inbounds play setup to end in a Wiggins slam worked with total precision, one of several close-range baskets the Jayhawks chalked up in the early goings. Traylor joined him, spinning in a nifty reverse layup before Black executed a three-point play just seconds after checking in, to put KU up 15-10.
Then Harris happened. He connected on three-straight threes to force a 9-0 run in less than 90 seconds, swinging the lead to the visitors, 20-17. Spurred by the hot streak, KU rolled off four buckets in four possessions by four different players and efficiently reclaimed the advantage, 25-22. Back-and-forth scoring resumed, but was largely led by the Harris-Staten partnership, who had 20 of the Mountaineers’ 30 points 15 minutes into the game.
On the flipside, Kansas’ scoring resembled near perfect balance. Black slammed his first dunk with less than five minutes till halftime. He, Traylor, Wiggins and Selden all took turns as KU’s leading scorer as halftime drew closer. When Brannen Greene fired off a three-pointer in the last possession of the half, Wiggins’ flight toward the basket ensured the ball wouldn’t hit the ground. His put-back slam sent the Jayhawks to the locker room with a 43-36 lead.
Embiid joined the party in the second half. After not scoring in the opening 20 minutes, he tallied his first points faster than during Tuesday’s trip to Baylor with a layup at the 18:07 mark. His scoring intro only slightly offset the 8-3 run that the visitors used to start the second half. Freshman forward Nathan Adrian, who went scoreless in the first half, knocked down a three-pointer to cut the Kansas lead to two and prompt a Bill Self timeout, leading 46-44.
Though West Virginia kept pushing back, the lead changes ceased. Kansas worked around a dismal 2-for-9 shooting start in the second half, making its trips to the line count. Layups from Embiid and Mason were the lone buckets the Jayhawks made through the first nine minutes, but the Jayhawks patched the droughts with a 10-for-11 effort at the free throw line to maintain its slim lead.
Wiggins broke the dry spell with a layup, but the Jayhawks still lacked their first jumper of the half. This time the wait would be short. Black battled for an offensive board. Falling, he dished the ball behind him to Tharpe in time for the point guard to locate a wide-open Selden, who honored the team effort with KU’s first trey of the half.
The Jayhawks were suddenly up nine, 62-53, and stretched it above double-digits with less than eight minutes to play. Determined to keep the Jayhawks within striking distance, West Virginia chipped at the lead to prevent KU from breaking free.
The Mountaineers held off the inevitable as long as they could, but a Tharpe three-pointer and jumper by Selden saw the Jayhawks take its largest lead of the game as they settled in for the 83-69 win.
Kansas will play at Kansas State on its third of four ESPN Big Mondays on Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. The Jayhawks will host TCU on Saturday, Feb. 15, at 3 p.m. on the Big 12 Television Network and then travel to Texas Tech on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): Jr. Naadir Tharpe (20/20), Fr. Wayne Selden, Jr. (23/23), Fr. Andrew Wiggins (23/23), So. Perry Ellis (23/26), Fr. Joel Embiid (15/15)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads 3-0
ATTENDANCE: 16,300 (208th consecutive sellout)
- Improved KU to 18-5 on the season, against the nation’s most difficult strength of schedule.
- Made Kansas 9-1 in Big 12 play for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
- Kept the Jayhawks undefeated in three meetings with West Virginia, including two double-digit wins inside Allen Fieldhouse.
- Was the Jayhawks’ 111th straight win against unranked opponents inside Allen Fieldhouse dating back to the 2006-07 season.
- Made KU 10-1 in Allen Fieldhouse this season, 171-9 under Bill Self and 709-109 all-time in the venue.
- Made Bill Self 3-0 all-time against WVU, and dropped Mountaineers’ head coach Bob Huggins to 0-7 against Kansas.
- Improved Bill Self to 318-64 while at Kansas and 525-169 overall.
- Made KU 2,119-817 all-time.
- The Jayhawks’ 81.5 scoring average through the first 10 games of league play is its highest since averaging 83.3 points through the first 10 Big 12 games in 2010-11.
- Kansas is used to getting its opponent’s best shot, but during the 2013-14 season the Jayhawks have also hit several teams at their hottest moment, including West Virginia. Eleven of KU’s 23 opponents entered their match-up with Kansas with at least three consecutive wins. Kansas has ended seven of those streaks, including two of double digits (Toledo – 12; K-State – 10).
- The Jayhawks chalked up 46 of their points from the paint, their highest total of the conference season and the most since scoring 50 in the paint against Toledo (12/30).
- Junior G Naadir Tharpe didn’t knock it down, but he launched KU’s first three-point attempt with 7:22 to play in the first half. That was the longest Kansas has gone this season without a try from long range. The Jayhawks have put up at least one three in the first five minutes in 18 of 23 games this season, and only twice – including Saturday and against Towson (11:18) – have gone longer than 10 minutes without launching a triple try.
- The Jayhawks made just four threes in the game, three from freshman G Wayne Selden, Jr. and a late triple from Tharpe, to tie the team’s lowest total in Big 12 play. KU shot 28.6 percent (4-for-14) from long range in the game, the team’s worst clip since before conference action began.
- A game’s first 20 minutes has been a pretty good indicator of potential KU success this season. Kansas led 43-36 at the break Saturday and improved to 16-0 when taking an advantage into halftime.
- The Jayhawks forced nine West Virginia turnovers in the first half, just short of the Mountaineers’ season average for an entire game (9.7). WVU ended the contest with 14 turnovers, which tied for its third-most of the year.
- Kansas used the turnovers and stiff defense to hold West Virginia to 48 shot attempts, a Mountaineer season-low and the fewest by a Jayhawk opponent this season.
- WVU used a spark from Eron Harris, who made three-straight, three-pointers on a personal 9-0 run that spanned 1:22 near the midpoint of the first half. Harris went 0-for-5 from beyond the arc for the rest of the game.
- Kansas made just two field goals in the first nine minutes of the second half, a lay-up by Joel Embiid (18:07) and another from Frank Mason (14:00). During that stretch the Jayhawks went 2-for-9 from the field and saw WVU pull within four, 57-53.
- The Jayhawks hit four of the next five buckets over the next four minutes to extend the lead to double figures and a then-game-high 12 (68-56) after a Perry Ellis dunk with 7:20 to play.
- KU led by as many as 15 points with 1:35 to play in the game and finished with a 14-point edge. Kansas has won 13 games by double figures this season.
- Kansas recognized the 40th anniversary of the 1974 KU Final Four team at a media timeout in the first half. Head coach Ted Owens, staff and players were on hand for the weekend. Led by All-Big Eight Conference guard Tom Kivisto, Kansas went 23-7 overall and won the Big Eight regular-season title with a 13-1 conference record.
- Freshman G Andrew Wiggins led the Jayhawks with 19 points, narrowly missing the eighth 20-point game of his career. Wiggins has led Kansas in scoring in 10 of the team’s 23 games.
- Wiggins shot less than 43 percent from the field for the third-straight game, but used seven free throws to give Kansas a boost. Wiggins was 7-for-10 from the line, all in the second half.
- In the last six games, Wiggins has tried double-digit free throw attempts three different times.
- Freshman G Wayne Selden, Jr., chipped in 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting including three from beyond the three-point line. It was the wing’s 10th game in double figures, including four of the last five contests.
- Freshman G Frank Mason led the Jayhawks with five assists and was followed closely by Tharpe with four. Mason has a 2.63:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in league games, just shy of Tharpe’s 2.94:1 rate. For the season, Tharpe has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.69:1.
- Senior F Tarik Black scored 11 points, eight before halftime, for his second-highest output as a Jayhawk. Black finished a perfect 3-for-3 from the field, one of two Jayhawks to do so Saturday.
- Black logged 21 minutes after playing 23 in Tuesday’s game against Baylor, a total of 44 minutes after playing 48 in his previous five appearances combined.
- Freshman C Joel Embiid scored 11 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. The big man has 40 rebounds in his last four games and 85 during Big 12 play, for an average of 8.5 per game. Embiid has six double-doubles this season and three since the start of Big 12 play.
- Embiid swatted three shots against West Virginia to move to an even 60 blocks on the season, just two behind Eric Chenowith (62, 1998) for the Kansas freshman blocks record.
- Embiid now has a blocked shot in 17-straight games.
Kansas head coach Bill Self
On how his bench responded to West Virginia’s starters’ foul trouble:
“If you’re going to pick three guys for who’s the most valuable player I would take Frank (Mason), Mari (Jamari Traylor) and Tarik (Black). They were great in the first half. They didn’t play as much in the second half, but certainly, in the first half they were the main reason we had the lead. Wiggs (Andrew Wiggins) had a pretty good half, but I thought our bench played really well.”
On if the team’s performance picked up when KU’s bench players came in:
“To be candid, I thought we had a couple starters (play without much energy), and Jo (Joel Embiid) didn’t have a chance to play because he picked up fouls. It’s hard to say Jo didn’t have energy, because he didn’t get a chance to play much. But there were a couple starters that I thought didn’t play with the energy they should; you need your best players playing their best and they start because they’re your best players. We didn’t have a drop off at all when we went to Tarik, Mari and Frank. That turned out to be real positive for us.”
On what it meant to have Ted Owens and the 1974 Final Four team in attendance:
“It’s cool. I hope I’m around when they bring the 2008 team and the 2012 team back in 2035 or 2040, whatever it is. It’s cool to see Coach come back because he’s still connected to all his players; he does a remarkable job of staying in touch with people. I don’t know how many guys came back, but there was a pretty good percentage of guys that could come back that were here. Obviously, that was a special team and it was a great year for Kansas basketball. Certainly, I think it’s good for our guys to witness that.”
On if he thought Joel Embiid was past his foul troubles:
“That happens sometimes. I had to think back; the second foul he got was a charge on the baseline; people are going to play to the scouting report and that was a smart defensive play by (Kevin) Noreen. I can’t remember what happened in addition to that, but a lot of times when Joel fouls, it’s not because he fouls his man, it’s because he fouls somebody else’s man when he goes to help. They force help and he tries to recover and it’s too late. But with big guys, there’s enough contact that if you look at it like that, how many of their guys had two or three fouls early that were big men? You don’t just call them one way, and our bigs have to do a better job of playing straight up. But for the most part, I thought they were probably good calls and one’s he’s got to learn from, because if they play hard they’re going to foul. So I’m not looking too much into it.”
On how he changes his approach when playing Kansas State for the second time:
“We’ll coach the scouting report because it’s been a while. I’m sure — and I haven’t studied yet — but I’m sure that they’re doing some things a little differently than they did the first game (versus Kansas). I really think the score the first game is totally irrelevant (K-State 60, Kansas 86). I think how we guarded them and how they guarded us will be the things that we look at, not whether the ball went in the hole or not. We know it will be a totally different game over there (in Manhattan, Kan.) with the energy they get from their fans. It’ll be a great test for our young kids to go over there and see how tough we are. I’m going to approach it like we need to put blinders on and not look left or right, only look straight ahead and go with a very focused purpose on the job we have to do and see where we’re at. Sometimes we can lose focus pretty easily, but this is one of those games where we can’t do that. We need to be pretty intent the next 48 hours.”
Kansas freshman guard Wayne Selden, Jr.
On the team’s bench production:
“It’s a real asset and it showed tonight in how Jamari (Traylor), Tarik (Black) and Frank (Mason) played tonight. They were able to come off the bench and give us some energy.”
On West Virginia’s defense and neutralizing its bench:
“We never really looked at it as to neutralize their bench. We defended them as a whole and defended the bench guys the same way we would guard one of their starters.”
Kansas senior forward Tarik Black
On his and Jamari’s nickname of the ‘Bruise Brothers’:
“It’s a cool nickname and it fits us. We go out there and play hard. We do, however, have more than just two of us. I’m surrounded by players who play physically. We have a lot more people to add to that nickname.”
On the team’s chemistry:
“We have good chemistry as a team. You look at our stats; we are an unselfish team and we all play well together when we get out there on the floor. Whether it be the starters or the guys that come off the bench, there really is no difference.”
Kansas freshman guard Andrew Wiggins
On guarding West Virginia’s Eron Harris:
“I was guarding him the whole game. After he hit those three three’s, I had to guard him closer and be more aggressive. I tried to turn him into a driver instead of a shooter.”
On playing inside Allen Fieldhouse:
“It’s always a good feeling to play here. I’m enjoying all the games and opportunities to play here. I’m enjoying the games, my teammates and coaches and all the fans. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
On his play tonight:
“I try to be aggressive and get into the lane. I do what I can to draw contact and get to the foul line.”
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins
On facing a team as deep as Kansas:
“They can only play five (at a time). Sometimes you think depth is really good, but other times you have to play the guys you have longer. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to find out. We are just not able to do that. The hard part about not having depth is having to play Juwan (Staten) and Eron (Harris) so long. I don’t think it affected us in a game like today, but it could hurt us on Monday.”
On Kansas’ stifling defense on Eron Harris:
“(Andrew) Wiggins did a great job. It crippled us today because Terry (Henderson) didn’t do what he typically does, and Remi (Dibo) didn’t make any. It was hard to score. Ordinarily, if Terry makes shots like he normally does… Remi had some wide open looks. That wasn’t due to anyone’s defense, he just didn’t make them. Our young big guys didn’t do some of the things we wanted them to do, in terms of taking advantage of how they were playing defensively. It’s hard to get them to understand some of the things we are trying to do. What hurts is what has hurt us all year, we just don’t have anyone to throw the ball to inside.”
On the play of his bench, especially Gary Browne coming in at the point:
“We were alright. We had their lead cut to four points with five minutes to go, but we just didn’t make any open shots. The offensive rebound at the free-throw line hurt us. They went one for two at the foul line and then got an offensive rebound and scored. Those are the things that really hurt you.”
On the key to turning this around and preparing for Iowa State:
“I have absolutely no idea. We are going to go home and hopefully get a bunch of rest. We’ll come in and watch film tomorrow and go over what we have to go over, and hopefully, we’ll be ready to go.”
On if the difference in the game was missing all the open shots:
“It was a five-point game, we get a steal and throw it to Terry (Henderson) and he dropped it (out of bounds). We just had some guys that didn’t play very well today, but that happens sometimes. That may be another argument that we need more depth. I think sometimes, when you know you have to play, you play with more confidence because you know you are not coming out. We had the game where we wanted it, but the offensive rebound at the foul line really hurt us. We turned it over too many times; 14 turnovers is too much for us. They are good and we knew we would turn it over some, but we had more unforced turnovers than we normally have.”
West Virginia sophomore guard Eron Harris
On the run Kansas made at the end of the game:
“They were on a roll man, they went on a roll after that. It seemed like there was nothing we could do about it. I’m not too worried about it because we have them again at home. We are confident we can get them at home.”
On what they did well in order to keep the game in reach:
“We were attacking the basket and hitting open shots. I think there was a certain point in the game that we couldn’t hit shots when we had open opportunities, but that happens though. Overall, we are a better team than we were. (It was) 10 times better game than it was last year. I am proud of my teammates, and I can’t wait to play them again at home.”
On his thoughts on the game and where they go from here:
“Well, this is arguably the best team in the league. We are progressively getting better and I say that even though we lost. We still did some great things in this game that we are going to learn from. We have to put this game in the past just like we have the whole season and get ready for Iowa State because we have to make sure that we beat Iowa State at home.”
West Virginia junior guard Juwan Staten
On if the game changed after Eron Harris was guarded by Andrew Wiggins:
“Not really. With the way the season has gone, Eron hasn’t been the only one scoring. He has done a great job scoring the ball for us, but he has had some games where he hasn’t scored his normal amount of points. That is where other people have to step up. That’s kind of where we’ve been all season – we can’t depend on just one person. We have to play as a team and when one person is getting a lot of pressure and not making as many shots as usual, then other players have to step up.”
On the defense of Kansas:
“They’re a good defensive team. They’re a well-coached team, I mean, it’s Kansas. They go out there and do what the coach asks them to do. They don’t really beat themselves, so we have to come out here and beat them. They played like they were supposed to play.”