Nightmarish minutes cost Mountaineers at Kansas
Leading by 14 points with just under three minutes to play against league-leading Kansas, West Virginia committed four turnovers in the last minute of regulation time and eventually lost, 84-80, in overtime at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
The Mountaineers were outscored, 21-7, in the last 2:58 of regulation, finished their sixth loss of the year with 21 turnovers and saw their record dip to 0-5 in Big 12 Conference games played at Kansas.
Normally, West Virginia’s bench can contribute in substantive ways, but against the 13-time defending conference champions that group of reserves scored only 13 points, committed 13 fouls and was 1-for-7 from the free throw line.
In a game of scoring streaks for both teams, West Virginia jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead. But then the Jayhawks scored the game’s next 16 points to grab a 16-10 lead.
West Virginia recovered well enough and used its full-court pressure defense and clinging half-court defense to keep the Jayhawks on the perimeter and missing long-range shots. West Virginia’s halftime lead was 39-32.
There was little the Jayhawks could do to remove West Virginia’s hold on the game . . . until the Mountaineers had what appeared to be a substantial lead at 64-50 with only 2:58 remaining.
Kansas was in jeopardy of its losing a second consecutive home game for the first time since 1989. The Jayhawks threw caution to the wind and went to their own full-court pressure.
West Virginia wilted in the final hectic minutes. And Kansas scored 21 points on Frank Mason free throws, Mason’s critical three-pointers and the urgent and vocal pleadings from the overflow crowd.
When the game lurched into overtime, tied at 71, the Jayhawks scored the first eight points in the extra session.
Esa Ahmad had 20 points for the Mountaineers and Tarik Phillip, who played well until the final minutes, had 18 points.
West Virginia, which was ranked ninth coming in, went to 20-6 overall and 8-5 in the Big 12. Kansas owns a three-game lead over WVU with only five conference games left.
Coming off a pair of conference wins over teams that had previously beaten them, the Mountaineers had pushed near second-place in the Big 12. There had been a satisfying, 85-66, win in Morgantown against Kansas State and then a 61-50 victory on the road over Oklahoma.
West Virginia’s final regular season games have it playing Texas Tech, Iowa State and Texas at home and going on the road to face Baylor and Texas Christian University.
The Big 12 tournament is once again in Kansas City.
Tomorrow’s game at home against Texas Tech sees the Mountaineers
face a team that beat them
in Lubbock. The Red Raiders just defeated second-place Baylor on Monday night.
Will the last 2:58 of regulation against Kansas be utmost on the collective minds of the Mountaineers? Or will they want sweet revenge against the Red Raiders, the same as they exacted against Kansas State and Oklahoma?