No. 18/18 Mountaineers snap No. 2/1 Jayhawks’ 18-game winning streak
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – No. 18/18 West Virginia snapped No. 2/1 Kansas basketball’s 18-game winning streak on Tuesday night at WVU Coliseum, 85-69.
Kansas (18-2, 7-1 Big 12) overcame a nine-point WVU lead with just under 10 minutes remaining, but the Mountaineers (16-4, 5-3) closed the contest on a 27-10 run in the final nine minutes of regulation to defeat the Jayhawks for the fourth-straight time in Morgantown.
Freshman guard Josh Jackson led the Jayhawks with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including a 4-for-4 mark from 3-point range. Senior center Landen Lucas grabbed 10 rebounds for his fifth double-figure rebounding effort in eight conference games.
West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad scored a game-high 27 points as the Mountaineers edged the Jayhawks in points in the paint, 34-20, and rebounding, 39-32.
Frank Mason III
“West Virginia has a good team,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “If you’re going to look at it over time – when they are turned-up, which they were today, I think they are certainly one of the best teams in the country. We didn’t play poorly for the first 30 minutes, but obviously we closed miserably and they dominated us late. Their freshness and our fatigue played a factor down the stretch.”
Kansas managed WVU’s style of defense, branded ‘Press Virginia,’ with a meager 13 turnovers compared to WVU’s nation-leading 23.2 forced turnovers per game. But WVU capitalized on KU’s miscues with 19 points off turnovers.
Senior guard Frank Mason III finished with 15 points, four rebounds and two steals, all the while WVU’s student section booed the national player of the year front-runner each time he touched the ball. Junior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk dished out a career-high seven assists.
Junior guard Devonte’ Graham put Kansas on the scoreboard for the first time at the 17:22 mark of the first half with a corner 3-pointer, tying the game at three. Jackson and Mykhailiuk followed with consecutive 3-pointers to give Kansas an early 9-8 lead with 15:44 remaining before halftime.
West Virginia’s Jevon Carter hit a 3-pointer promptly following the first media timeout, but Jackson answered by taking a charge on the next defensive possession for KU. The four-time Big 12 Newcomer of the Week followed by an assist through WVU’s defense to a cutting Carlton Bragg Jr. for a dunk to tie the game at 13. The tie was the third of the night 10 minutes into regulation.
Facing a four-point deficit, Mason drained a 3-pointer at the top of the key to bring Kansas within one, 17-16, at the 9:07 mark of the first half. On the ensuing WVU possession, Bragg blocked Ahmad’s shot to setup a fast-break layup for Mason to give Kansas a 18-17 lead which the Jayhawks maintained until WVU went into the locker room with a 38-35 halftime lead.
Graham led Kansas with 13 points at halftime on 5-of-7 shooting – the only two shots he missed were forced 3-pointers with the either the shot or game clock expiring.
WVU started the second half on an 8-0 run to take a nine-point lead, 44-35.
Kansas eventually erased its nine-point its deficit after Mykhailiuk nailed a 3-pointer to give the Jayhawks a 59-58 advantage with 9:52 remaining, capping off an 11-1 KU run in just 2:11 minutes.
West Virginia took control of its fourth-straight home win over Kansas with a 27-10 run in the final 9:09 of regulation.
Kansas continues its road swing against top-20 teams on Saturday in Lexington, Kentucky, against the fourth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats. The top-two all-time winningest programs in college basketball tipoff at 5:15 Central on ESPN.
Kansas head coach Bill Self
On what it is about playing in Morgantown that makes it so tough:
Well, to be quite candid, I don’t think we played exceptionally well here, but I think that West Virginia has a good team. I think if you were going to look at it over time, I think when they’re turned up, which they were tonight, I think they’re certainly one of the best teams in the country. We didn’t play poorly for the first 30 or whatever, but obviously we’re close measurably and they dominate this league.
On Esa Ahmad’s performance:
Yeah, we didn’t guard him. We didn’t guard him and he got off to a great start. I think he had 12 or 14, maybe 16 at halftime. I can’t remember exactly, but he had like eight in the first three minutes and got off to a great start. He’s a good player and certainly I thought he played very well. I thought their whole team shared the ball, obviously with 22 assists, and they made timely shots. I thought of a team that played exceptionally well tonight, he was probably the best player in the game.
On if allowing so many layups was the most disappointing part:
We gave up a lot of easy baskets. They ended up shooting 48, and 40 from three. Then of course our free throw defense wasn’t any good. Theirs was much better. We gave up a lot of easy baskets and a lot of those were off. Not a lot of turnovers, a few. Certainly a few off second shots and basically just some throw it straight to the post and score.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins
On Esa Ahmad:
He hasn’t been until the last few weeks. I think he kind of rededicated himself to the game, really after the Kansas State game. He wasn’t really good at the Kansas State game. He wasn’t very good at the Oklahoma game. He got in the gym. I know you guys get tired of me saying that but again, he got in the gym. He was in the gym last night at 9 o’clock after being in there early before practice and late after practice. That’s kind of what it takes.
On forcing turnovers versus not turning the ball over:
I thought our shot selection was really good. We didn’t force things. They heard enough about what our problems were. I don’t know why you have to go through what we’ve gone through the last week or so for it to sink in. I told them in April we can’t turn the ball over and we have to make free throws. And we did both of those things today and played pretty well, and we don’t do that.
On key to winning the game:
Not turning the ball over. Making free throws. We turned it over 23 times in Manhattan (Kansas). That’s 15 less possessions than what you get when you turn it over eight times. That’s a lot of possessions.
On Esa Ahmad running the first play of the game:
He had two good days of practice. He had two good days of practice and he’s our best guy at attacking the rim. He has more size. He’s wider. He has those huge hands. They’re so long. The other option is do it for Dax (Daxter Miles), but Dax is so much smaller. It wasn’t the kinder, gentler approach in case you were wondering. It wasn’t the kinder approach.
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