Chalk Up 11: Kansas Comeback Claims Undisputed Crown
LAWRENCE, Kan. — ‘Press Virginia’ had given the Jayhawks almost all they could take. Down two starters and 42 minutes into the game, Wayne Selden, Jr. and Jamari Traylor pulled off a press break nothing short of perfection. In the air, from midcourt, Selden shot a bullet pass to a sprinting Traylor. He caught it in full stride, took two steps and slammed it through the hoop. The roof nearly blew off the building. No. 9/10 Kansas never trailed again, defeating No. 20/20 West Virginia in overtime, 76-69, to take its 11th-straight Big 12 Conference title outright on Senior Night inside Allen Fieldhouse.
A win for Iowa State against second-place Oklahoma on Monday caused the first celebration ripple throughout Lawrence, as it meant a share of the Big 12 regular-season championship. On Tuesday night, Kansas (24-6, 13-4) made its own noise, claiming sole possession of the Big 12 crown with a comeback for the ages against West Virginia (22-8, 10-7).
Senior Christian Garrett continued the tradition
of senior speeches. KU has won 33-straight
home finales, dating back to 1983-84.The conference title is KU’s 11th-straight, 15th Big 12 and NCAA-leading 58th overall. The 11-consecutive titles, beginning in 2004-05 and all under head coach Bill Self, ranks tied for second all-time on NCAA Division I list with Gonzaga’s 11-straight Big West regular-season championships from 2001-11 and only trails UCLA’s 13-consecutive titles as members of the then-Pac-10 Conference from 1967-79.
The visitors did everything they could to spoil the celebration, leading all but 60 seconds of regulation. West Virginia broke the game open with an 18-point advantage, and with five minutes remaining, the Jayhawks had only managed to cut that in half. Down to two minutes, Kansas still trailed, 57-50. The Jayhawks banded together by way of sophomores Frank Mason III, Brannen Greene, freshman Devonte’ Graham and Traylor. In the final 1:55 of regulation, all four scored to keep the game alive.
Traylor and Mason were unreal. Neither had a single point at halftime, but when the final horn sounded – Mason led the Jayhawks with 19 points, Traylor followed with 14. Traylor had just one rebound at the break, but led his team with nine rebounds on the night. Mason pulled down seven. Freshman guard Kelly Oubre, Jr., was instrumental with 12 points before fouling out.
On his Senior Night, Los Angeles native Christian Garrett heard his name called amongst the starting lineup. The walk-on guard played nearly two minutes before Oubre entered the game in his place – only just beginning the lineup alterations. KU was forced to sit Cliff Alexander for the second-straight game as precautionary measure prompted by the NCAA. On the opposing bench, West Virginia had to play without leading scorer – and Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year – Juwan Staten and fellow guard Gary Browne.
WVU seemed to take the personnel loss in stride, getting a career-high 23 points from freshman guard Daxter Miles, Jr., and 13 from sophomore guard Tarik Phillip. Junior forward Jonathan Holton recorded the game’s only double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Kansas, however, sorely missed its big man presence from Alexander. In the first half, the Jayhawks were outrebounded 26-11, including a crippling 14-2 mark on the offensive glass. In fact, with four boards, Mason was the only Jayhawk in the first half with more than one rebound.
Only twice in the first half did Kansas make consecutive shots, collecting a meager seven field goals on 33 percent shooting and an 0-for-7 three-point mark. Things got so bleak that even junior forward Perry Ellis, KU’s recent offensive flamethrower, went down with an injury. When the second half began, Ellis didn’t join his team on the bench.
So, the Jayhawks held it down for him.
Devin Williams made the first shot of the second half, scoring 18 seconds into the final frame. West Virginia did not score for the next four minutes. Kansas sprang into action. Traylor started the Jayhawk run with a layup, and Oubre took over with five-straight points to finally whittle the margin back to single digits, 42-33.
Selden stole a page from the WVU playbook, swiping a steal and sprinting the length of the floor for a dunk to cut it to seven. He drove again, scored again – but this time came down hard. He, too, left the game with an injury.
Severely short-staffed, the Jayhawks fought. They had to.
West Virginia was suffocating. Holton muted KU’s efforts with two three-pointers in a row, pushing the lead back to double figures, 50-39. Kansas was shooting better in the second half, but was still pleading for a three-pointer that never came. KU went 0-for-15 from behind the arc on the night.
Selden returned. Ellis did not. The Jayhawks got help from wherever they could get it. Redshirt junior Hunter Mickelson led his team with six points in the first half, and without Ellis, KU needed him all the more. He scored his first points of the second period from the free throw line, pulling Kansas within six. Miles threw another spear from downtown. His third three-pointer, a career-high, shoved Kansas back down, 53-44.
The Jayhawks, as they had all night, got back up. Traylor capitalized on a foul, making both ends of the one-and-one. Finally, a break. WVU’s Carter fired up a three and missed, but was wide open after scooping up the long rebound. He shot again, missed.
This time it was Oubre with the rebound, and he used it wisely. His ball handling control protected the ball, resulting in a drive, a layup and a free throw. With less than five minutes remaining, Kansas had closed the gap to 55-49. Greene couldn’t make it happen from three-point range, but was perfect from the line, knocking down both with 1:55 remaining, but West Virginia still had distance on its side as time grew thin, 57-51.
If it was going to happen, it had to happen now. Kansas forced a crucial turnover on the inbounds pass, and Traylor made it a costly one. He curled around the defense, drove through the lane and cut it to four. Traylor was everywhere now, saving a rebound for a precious second chance. This time, Mason put it away – on back-to-back occasions. Thus, setting up Graham at the line. With 11 seconds to play, the rookie hit both.
Stunned but not done, West Virginia reclaimed the lead as the extra time began. Ultimately, Traylor and Selden’s picturesque production provided the flood of confidence Kansas would need to finish it out. Traylor’s dunk put Kansas in front, 67-65.
In the next minute, WVU big men Williams and Nathan Adrian fouled on back-to-back possessions. Kansas led for less than 60 seconds in regulation, but overtime belonged to the current tenants of Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks closed its 60th season in the basketball monument on the heels of eight-straight points from Mason. The final score read 76-69.
Kansas will close out the regular season at No. 16/17 Oklahoma on Saturday, March 7, which will be televised on ESPN with a 3 p.m. tip. The Jayhawks will then play in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship, March 11-14, at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas will play its first game on March 12 with the opponent and time to be determined. Kansas has won 13 conference postseason tournament titles, including nine in the Big 12.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): So. G Frank Mason, III (30/33), So. G Wayne Selden, Jr. (30/65), Sr. G Christian Garrett (1/1), Jr. F Perry Ellis (30/67), Jr. F Jamari Traylor (16/17)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads, 25-8
ATTENDANCE: 16,300 (227-consecutive sellouts)
- Clinched the Jayhawks’ 11th-consecutive Big 12 Conference regular-season title outright. At 13-4 in the Big 12, Kansas now has a two-game lead in the conference race with just one game remaining.
- Made Kansas 24-6 overall, giving KU 24 victories for the 10th-straight season (beginning in 2005-06).
- Jumped KU’s record to 13-4 in Big 12 play, also marking the 10th-consecutive season that the Jayhawks recorded 13 league wins, beginning in 2005-06.
- Seeded Kansas at No. 1 in the 2015 Big 12 Championship. KU will play in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 12, at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The Jayhawks will face the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed game to be played March 11. This is the seventh-consecutive year (beginning in 2009) that KU will enter the event as the No. 1 seed and the 12th time in the 19-year history of the Big 12.
- Extended Kansas’ home finale win streak to 33-straight seasons, which began in 1983-84, and its 32nd-straight Senior Night win.
- Made the Kansas-West Virginia series 4-2 in favor of KU, including 3-0 inside Allen Fieldhouse.
- Marked the 24th-straight victory inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 15-0 record in the venue this season. That is the 18th season that Kansas has gone undefeated at home, the fifth under head coach Bill Self. Overall, the Jayhawks are 728-109 all-time inside their storied venue and 190-9 at home under Self.
- Improved Self to 349-75 while at Kansas, 4-2 against West Virginia and 556-180 overall.
- Made KU 2,150-828 all-time.
- In regular-season play, Kansas has not been beaten twice by the same Big 12 opponent in the Bill Self era. When including the Big 12 Championship, Kansas has been beaten by the same opponent twice in a season only once (67-82 at Texas, 2/23/04; 60-64 vs. Texas, 3/13/04) in Self’s 12 years.
- Tuesday’s extended effort against West Virginia marked the first time Kansas has played an overtime game since defeating Oklahoma State, 77-70, on March 13, 2014.
- The Jayhawks are now 63-55 overall when adding a third period to a contest.
- West Virginia’s 40 first half points are the most given up by a Kansas team in the first 20 minutes of action since Iowa State hung 46 points after one session on March 14, 2014.
- West Virginia also went on to tie the largest deficit Kansas has faced in Allen Fieldhouse this season at 18 points, 40-22, with 1:22 to play in the opening period. Florida held the previous margin at 18 points on Dec. 5, 2014.
- Tuesday’s come-from-behind victory marked just the second time this season Kansas has won a game that it trailed with five minutes left to play.
- Kansas was outrebounded by West Virginia on Tuesday 46-34, reaching KU’s largest rebound deficit (-12) since losing the battle of the boards by 12 to San Diego State 51-39 on Jan. 5, 2014.
- Kansas is now 13-0 on the season when the bench scores 25 or more points.
- West Virginia began the game making 70 percent of their first 10 shots, while Kansas began the game ice-cold just converting two of its first 10 shots (20 percent). The shooting discrepancy ended up giving the Mountaineers a 15-6 advantage with 12:50 to play in the first half.
- The hot shooting by West Virginia coupled with 10 Kansas turnovers with 7:29 to play in the first half led to the Mountaineers claiming a 15-point lead (28-13) the largest lead a Big 12 Conference opponent has held on Kansas in league play this season inside Allen Fieldhouse. Baylor previously held a 13-point lead on Feb. 14. As previously stated above, the lead would grow to as many as 18 points.
- Due to two free throws by sophomore G Brannen Greene with eight seconds left in the opening half, the Mountaineers’ lead was cut to 14 points, 40-26, just one point shy of the largest Kansas halftime deficit this season which was set on Dec. 5, 2014 when Florida took a 39-24 lead into the locker room.
- KU’s 40-26 halftime deficit marked the 12th time this year Kansas has trailed after the first 20 minutes of play.
- Kansas is now 7-5 when trailing at the intermission this season.
- Contrary to the first half, Kansas came out and made 50 percent of its shots to begin the second period and reeled-off a 9-0 run to climb back within seven points 42-35 with 15:37 remaining in the game.
- For the game, Kansas missed every three-point shot it attempted completing the game with an 0-for-15 standing. KU’s goose egg from beyond the arc snapped a streak of 29-straight games with a three-point shot dating back to an 0-of-7 effort against Eastern Kentucky on March 21, 2014.
- The Jayhawks have never taken more than nine three-point attempts without a make in a game. The previous worst was 0-of-9 against Baylor on Feb. 28, 2008.
- KU’s zero in the three-point column signified the fifth time in the last 15 years that Kansas has been held without a three-point conversion. The Jayhawks were held off of the scoreboard from three against Eastern Kentucky (3/21/14), Western Kentucky (3/22/13), Baylor (2/9/2008) and at Texas (2/28/2000). Kansas now holds a 4-1 record in games has not made a three in the last 15 years.
- The last time Kansas didn’t make a three in a Big 12 Conference game was against Baylor on Feb. 9, 2008.
- What was once a potent three-point offense earlier in the season has now drastically cooled over the previous four games making only 15 percent of its shots from behind the arc (7-of-46) dating back to a home victory over TCU on Feb. 21.
- As a whole Kansas shot 79 percent from the free throw line making 34-of-43 shots against the Mountaineers. Over the previous seven games Kansas has made 139-of-179 free tosses equaling out to a 78 percent mark. The 34 free throws made are a seson-high.
- In the last two games alone Kansas has made 80 percent of its free attempts (60-of-75) making 26-of-32 against Texas and 34-of-43 to top West Virginia.
- Freshman G Devonté Graham made two free throws to cinch the score at 59-59 with 11 seconds to play in regulation. Graham is now 26-of-31 on the season with less than five minutes to play and Kansas is 160-of-200 (80 percent) overall.
- KU’s three-point deficiency was covered up in large part thanks to 42 points in the paint over the course of the game. The Jayhawks pounded the ball inside the painted area in the second half and in overtime scoring 28 points down low in the last 25 minutes of play.
- With the added five minutes of play on Tuesday Kansas made the exact number of field goals (21) as it did against Texas last Saturday.
- Senior G Christian Garrett started his first career game on his Senior Night. Garrett played two minutes yet did not record any other statistics. In his career as a Jayhawk, Garrett is 53-2 at home and 129-31 overall.
- Sophomore G Frank Mason III scored in double figures for the 26th time this season with a team-best 19 points.
- Mason’s eight points in overtime are the most since Elijah Johnson scored 12 points at Iowa State on Feb. 12, 2013.
- Junior F Jamari Traylor hadn’t reached double digits for the first time since scoring 13 points at Baylor on Jan. 7. Traylor scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half and in overtime.
- Traylor’s team-best nine rebounds tied the nine boards he also grabbed against UNLV on Jan. 4.
- At halftime, however, Traylor had no points and just one rebound.
- Junior F Perry Ellis scored four points on Tuesday before leaving the game with an injury. Ellis pushed his career point total to 1,113, while ranking 41st on KU’s all-time scoring list.
- Freshman F Kelly Oubre, Jr., posted 12 points, the 13th time he has been in double-figures this season. His seven rebounds were second only to Traylor’s nine.
- Redshirt junior F Hunter Mickelson tallied a KU career-high eight points making both of his shot attempts from the field and sinking a perfect 4-of-4 free throws. Mickelson also scored eight points against Lafayette on Dec. 20, 2014.
- Mickelson also forced a KU personal-best three steals and swatted two shots which tied his best effort in a Jayhawk uniform.
- Sophomore F Landen Lucas played a career-high 26 minutes against Texas and finished the game with just one point, but six crucial rebounds.
POSTGAME QUOTES KANSAS
Kansas head coach Bill Self
On how emotionally tiring the comeback was and Perry Ellis’ injury:
“I don’t know if I could have gone five more minutes; that was a tiring day, in large part, because we were so bad in the first half. Whatever Iowa State had the first half yesterday I think we had tonight. We played tough, we played hard, but playing without Perry (Ellis) obviously is not good. He had the flu and got off to a bad start anyway, then he gets hurt. We don’t know the extent of it, but the good news is we think he can be back in about a week or so. I think (at) Oklahoma (Saturday, March 7) may be a long shot, which is fine, but the kids battled and the crowd was great. Certainly, it has to rank up there with one of the best wins we’ve had here.”
On the effect of the home crowd:
“If you stop and think about it, our home record is unbelievable. Everybody has a good home court but you could have had 15 games that could of easily gone the other way if it wasn’t just for the crowd and tonight was certainly one of those games. I think the Texas game was one of those games too so we’re spoiled and we certainly appreciate it.”
On 11 Big 12 Conference titles in a row:
“I will be shocked if it happens again in a major conference. It’s a great run. The reason we have won them is because we have had better players than teams we played. That’s a pretty easy formula. We shouldn’t take away from this team talking about 11 (straight) because this team deserves to be the one talked about, but it’s been an unbelievable run and the guys certainly competed their butts off to get it.”
Kansas junior forward Jamari Traylor
On feeling like KU was making play after play:
“I just felt like we had to make plays, guys were stepping up and we fought back.”
On the difference between the game tonight and two weeks ago at West Virginia:
“Tonight we were able to stop them in the end. We didn’t let them get a shot. The last game we were sloppy on defense and we didn’t communicate. We ended up letting them get too many shots. This time our guys responded to the ball better.”
On how the team reacts when it is down:
“We’re don’t get scared. We always know it’s a possibility that we can come back. Coach Self always wants us to fight and keep pushing. There is a lot of encouragement, but he also gets on us at the same time. We just knew we had to make adjustments because we didn’t start off the game the way we wanted to.”
On Perry Ellis not playing the second half and overtime:
“I knew somebody else was going to have to step up. I wanted to be more vocal and just a little more of everything for my teammates.”
Kansas sophomore guard Frank Mason III
On the halftime speech tonight:
“Coach (Self) did most of the talking, but before he got in there guys on the team said things to try and get others going.”
On what tonight meant for senior guard Christian Garrett:
“This means a lot for Christian. Obviously, it’s his last game in the Fieldhouse and we wanted to do it for him, but also for the program, for the fans, for our teammates and coaches, but it was a big win for Christian.”
On when Kansas was down with only a little time left on the clock:
“Our main goal as a team was to get stops, keep fighting and keep believing. Years ago, the 2008 team was down with two minutes left (in the National Championship to Memphis) and they came back and made a run. Little things like that just help us know that it’s possible.”
On Jamari Traylor’s basket that put KU ahead to stay:
“That was a huge basket, it was an unbelievable play. I’m proud of Jamari, he played great tonight and made a lot of good plays for us.”
Kansas freshman guard Devonte’ Graham
On his nerves at the end of the game, stepping to the free throw line:
“I didn’t have any nerves. I stepped up to the line and I was just saying, ‘Game time, game time.’ I had to make the free throws even though I had missed a couple before that.”
POSTGAME QUOTES WEST VIRGINIA
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins
On the youth of West Virginia and if it was surprising what happened towards the end:
“They’ve played a year. That’s my fault I should have never had Daxter (Miles, Jr.) take it out of bounds. I put him in a bad spot. The truth is, they shoot 43 free throws and we shoot 28, we’re not going to win. We turn it over 22 times, we’re not going to win.”
On the positives he saw:
“We played, I mean we deserved to win the game. We really did. We just didn’t do enough at the end, but I thought our guys played hard. We didn’t play very smart. We’re up nine and Jaysean (Paige) comes down and shoots an air ball three in transition and we’re up nine instead of running clock. They’re some things that happened that are just hard to explain.”
On getting off to such a fast start:
“We rebounded the ball. We did a terrific job of rebounding the ball in the first half.”
On playing without Juwan Staten and Gary Browne and if he thought they’d be able to put together that kind of effort in a hostile Allen Fieldhouse:
“I don’t know what the building has to do with anything to be honest with you. They’re a really good team, but I knew we’d compete. We have a tendency sometimes to not make shots and that makes it awfully hard.”
On what went wrong late in the game:
“When we got the offensive rebound up seven and we got the foul call and they shot two free throws with the clock stopped, I thought that was a big play. I’ll have to go back and look at the tape, but they really took it to the basket and we didn’t. We settled for jump shots.”
West Virginia junior forward Jonathan Holton
On KU’s performance toward the end of the game and KU outrebounding WVU:
“You just have to continue to play hard. You just have to play hard and that is all that we can control. We’ve got one more game against Oklahoma State and we have to be ready to go.”
On feeling if the game was over when WVU had a large lead:
“With about two minutes and two seconds left, we just needed one more stop. That’s the last thing I remember. It was crazy and a tough loss.”
On going into the game without their senior guards and still competing throughout:
“We are a competitive team and we like practicing with each other every day. Even when (Juwan) Staten is sitting out, we still like to go hard. The great thing about basketball is that it is a team sport and it gives the next guy a chance to go. It was fun to play with this group of guys.”
West Virginia freshman guard Daxter Miles, Jr.
On handling the loss:
“We made some big mistakes at the end of regulation. We made some dumb turnovers. It was hot in there.”
On KU’s pressure and the crowd affecting West Virginia:
“They played harder than us. They played harder than us and they wanted it more. I don’t think we played as hard as we could toward the end of the game.”
On WVU’s success in the first half compared to the second:
“We were full of energy and hungry. We got comfortable with the lead instead of extending it and made stupid turnovers, myself included. We have to minimize the turnovers and learn from this as a team. We have to limit our turnovers.”
On believing the game was won when West Virginia had the lead:
“Yes, I thought we had this one, but you can’t fall asleep. Once you have them down you have to put your foot on their necks or they will try to fight back. They fought back and we were battling them at the end.”
On lessons learned about the team:
“We are a good team and have a lot of heart. The youth got to us out there. We just have to keep learning about the game. I don’t think this is going to happen again because we are going to watch a lot of film of this game. We are going to have to change some things we did at the end. It was bad, but we have to minimize our turnovers.”
On proving that the team was more than Juwan Staten and Gary Browne:
“I always play with a chip on my shoulder and I’m pretty sure all the guys on my team do as well. We’ve got to gain the respect, because we are a young team and a lot of people haven’t seen us play. We have to start games like how we started (tonight) no matter who our opponents are. We have to get smarter and watch a lot of our games, even the games that we won, so we can win more.”
On what the team can build on from this game:
“We were down two soldiers (guards Juwan Staten and Gary Browne), so we have 14 soldiers. Think about those guys; if you had them in situations like this, but you can’t think about that. You can never win if you doubt yourself.”
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