Kansas Edges WVU
MORGANTOWN – Trailing by two against one of the top teams in the country on Monday night, West Virginia did what it has done more times than not this season.
It fell short.
This time it was a 61-56 loss to a Kansas team that was No. 2 in the Associated Press Poll, but No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
After the Mountaineers had rallied from a deficit that reached 15 at one point, Juwan Staten’s 19-foot jumper got the Mountaineers to within two at 48-46 with 10:18 left in the game.
“That’s when we’re supposed to just suck it up and go blow for blow with them,” WVU guard Jabarie Hinds said. “Down two to the No. 2 team in the country, you just have to fight, and we didn’t do that.”
While that may not be entirely accurate – the Jayhawks only outscored West Virginia 13-10 the rest of the way – it was enough.
“A five-point victory in Morgantown?” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I’ll take that.”
West Virginia started this one excruciatingly slow, as the Jayhawks needed only 5:11 to grab a double-digit lead.
More than seven minutes elapsed before West Virginia hit its first field goal, after the first eight clanged, on a Deniz Kilicli move inside and it looked like it was going to be more of the same for these sub-.500 Mountaineers who were getting their first taste of the best of the Big 12.
Kansas’ largest lead came on a pair of free throws by Kevin Young at the 9:17 putting it up by 22-7.
But, West Virginia was able to keep the full house into it with a spirited rally, ignited by Aaric Murray, late in the first half. Murray’s steal and slam with 4:45 left led to his scoring seven straight Mountaineers points and WVU cutting into more than half of its deficit.
The Jayhawks (19-1 overall, 7-0 Big 12), who won their 18th straight and were playing just hours after reaching the top spot in the poll, helped West Virginia (9-11, 2-5) stay close in the first half by committing nine turnovers and missing 9 of 19 free throws. Hinds beat the buzzer with a steal and a layup before halftime to make the score 38-30 at that point.
The 6-foot-10 Murray, one of several to bang inside with Kansas 7-footer Jeff Withey, wound up hitting a trio of 3-pointers and scoring a team-best 17 points.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, as he has after so many games this season, was talking about poor execution and missed chances.
“We could have ran what we were supposed to be run in the fashion it was supposed to be run,” was Huggins’ answer when asked what would it have taken for things to go differently when they got to within two.
Withey scored 15 the Jayhawks, tying Travis Releford for tops on the club. Ben McLemore added 13.
West Virginia was charged with four fouls and three turnovers before hitting its first field goal Kansas was the 13th Top-3 opponent to make its way to the Coliseum, the last being No. 2 UCLA in February 2007, which lost, 70-65. Monday’s game marked the first time in 39 career games that Hinds did not start.