Mountaineers Blow 15-Point Second Half Lead In Loss
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia literally threw this one away against Kansas.
The No. 6 Mountaineers led by as many as 16 points – including 15 in the second half – but literally watched at times as the No. 10 Jayhawks rallied after getting Jevon Carter in foul trouble and using a pair of key threes in a late rally for the 71-66 win. It was a shocking turn for a WVU offense which managed 41 points in the first half, but made just 10 total shots in the second while committing 11 turnovers – part of 16 overall.
“We were turning the ball over and they were capitalizing hitting threes,” forward Esa Ahmad said. “We gotta hit shots. We were open and didn’t hit shots. It comes down to knocking down shots. It was on us. It’s tough.”
Only four Mountaineers scored over the final period, with just two points coming from Dax Miles. That left the scoring load on the likes of Carter, Sags Konate and Esa Ahmad, and the added stagnation of the setscontributed to the issue in a contest in which West Virginia scored just six points over the final 5:53. Kansas, meanwhile, found a spark and whittled a 60-51 deficit into a 63-60 lead in less than three minutes via a dozen straight points.
It all came in a stretch where KU hit a two of three-pointers and got five points from sharpshooter Svi Mykhailiuk. It was part of a dozen points from the guard over the final seven minutes of game time, and it gave the Jayhawks enough offense to push past a West Virginia team which suddenly failed to share the ball and couldn’t execute the basics in trying to seal a fifth straight home win over Kansas.
“We turned the ball over and they capitalized on it,” Ahmad said. “Credit to them for playing good defense, but at the same time we couldn’t hit shots and it didn’t help turning the ball over. We gotta scramble on defense and pick up our man. We have to communicate. We really weren’t communicating. It’s something we have to work on in practice. It helped them hit shots.”
The stats showed the problems, as the Mountaineers finished with just three players who recorded an assist. Eight of those – or four each – came from Carter and Miles, while Chase Harler had one. That means six other players – all of whom saw at least seven minutes and some as many as 33, 29 or 28 – failed to make one pass that directly resulted in a bucket.
West Virginia turned the ball over three times during Kansas’ 12-0 run, and were without Carter for a stretch after the guard was whistled for his fourth foul with 7:53 remaining. The Mountaineers led 55-48 at that point, and were able to keep the game level for the next two minutes before the miscues plagued execution down the stretch.
Carter, Konate and Ahmad all reached double figures with at least 14 points, but the Mountaineers lost the turnover battle as well as the points off. WVU also settled for threes at times and were outshot 35% to 19% after missing 22-of-27 from deep. West Virginia did lead for a whopping 32:47 of the 40 minutes in a contest which featured five lead changes.
The last went to the Jayhawks, however, and the result was a devastating home loss to the top of the Big 12 standings, especially fronted by a one-point loss at Texas Tech in which WVU controlled much of the game. The defeat drops the Mountaineers to fourth place in the conference at 15-3, 4-2. Kansas is now atop the Big 12 at 15-3 overall, 4-1, while Texas Tech and Oklahoma are also 4-1 in league play. WVU, meanwhile, could have a stranglehold on the early standings if it closed the last two games. As it is, its now looking up at Kansas yet again in trying to snap KU’s run of 13 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles.
“We know we are going to have droughts, but at the same time we have to withstand that and try to get easy ones,” Ahmad said. “Get it at the rim and get free throws, stay in a rhythm.”
WVU drops to 40-20 in the Big 12 regular season in the last four years, including a 29-13 mark in the last two-plus seasons … West Virginia is 109-77 under Bob Huggins in conference regular season games (Big 12 and Big East) … the Mountaineers are now 10-8 in their last 18 games vs. AP Top 25 teams, with two wins over No. 1, one vs. No. 2, two wins over No. 6 and one win over No. 7 … Kansas leads the series, 8-4. All 12 meetings have been since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 in 2012 … West Virginia has lost five of the last nine meetings in the series with WVU … WVU entered having won four in a row at home against Kansas … the Mountaineers are now 4-2 against Kansas at the Coliseum.