On Saturday afternoon in Lubbock, the Kansas Jayhawks (23-3, 11-2 Big 12) needed every second to knock off the Texas Tech Red Raiders. It was much of the same on Monday night as the Jayhawks welcomed West Virginia (20-6, 8-5 Big 12) to Allen Fieldhouse.
The Mountaineers had a commanding 14-point lead with just under three minutes to play in the second half. The Jayhawks looked left for dead. Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson couldn’t get shots to fall. As a team, KU couldn’t do anything offensively all night long, but they had WVU right where they wanted him. After a series of WVU missed free throws, botched inbounds passes and a couple huge threes by junior guard Devonte’ Graham, Kansas stormed all the way back to force overtime.
In the overtime period Graham continued to step up as he made two huge threes that really crushed the backs of the Mountaineers. KU tried to pull a choke act of their own at the end of OT, but it wouldn’t be enough. Kansas pulled off an improbable 84-80 victory in one of the all-time games in Allen Fieldhouse history. The power of the Phog helped KU pull this one out, no doubt about it.
If it weren’t for the Patriots comeback in the Super Bowl a week ago, this would be talked about as the comeback of the year in sports thus far.
This game very reminiscent of the WVU game two years ago. In that game Kansas rallied from an 18-point deficit with nine minutes left to force overtime. They went on to win 76-69 over the Mountaineers.
Aside from Graham, senior guard and National Player of the Year candidate Frank Mason played a huge role in the Kansas comeback. He made some big free throws down the stretch. His finished the night with 24 points on 3-13 shooting, but he was 16-18 from the line and made his last 13 attempts. He also chipped in with four rebounds and five assists.
Senior forward Landen Lucas played perhaps the most important minutes all night. He played most of the second half and overtime with four fouls, but he didn’t foul out. Lucas guarded the inbounder on KU’s press and he forced multiple West Virginia turnovers. Lucas finished the night with eight points, 13 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Jackson also logged heavy minutes as he finished the night with 41. He also had 14 points on 4-13 shooting, 11 rebounds, five steals and was 6-8 from the charity stripe.
The big three of Mason, Graham and Jackson combined 126 minutes, 56 points, 17 boards and shot 25-30 from the line. Perhaps the only downside of their play tonight was how they shot the ball. The trio combined for just 30% from the floor.
Sophomore guard Lagerald Vick played one of his better games of the year. He provided a huge spark off the bench in the first half when KU was down 10-0. He finished the first half with 10 points in just eight minutes of action. He eventually fouled out in the midst of KU’s comeback, but he finished the night with 14 points in 18 minutes.
With the win KU has put themselves in the driver seat for a 13th consecutive Big 12 title. Thanks to the huge win Texas Tech had over Baylor Monday night in Lubbock, the Jayhawks are now two games up on the rest of the field.
Kansas will travel to Waco on Saturday afternoon. If KU can pull off a victory there, it will all but clinch the title for the Jayhawks. With that being said, KU can’t afford to play the way they did on Monday night on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. CT and will be broadcasted on CBS. Make sure you keep up with us here at Rock Chalk Blog as we’ll have more about KU’s huge win over WVU, as well as previews of Saturday’s matchup with the Bears.
Notes and Observations
- Kansas improved to 218-10 at Allen Fieldhouse in the Bill Self era with the win over WVU
- KU has yet to lose consecutive home games since the 1988-89 season, which was Roy Williams’ first year in Lawrence
- Bill Self has never been swept by a Big 12 opponent, in fact he’s never been swept by a power five conference opponent in his career. The last time he was swept was in 1999-00 when he was at Tulsa
- I unofficially had KU with 1.08 points per possession, which is truly amazing considering how bad they were offensively most of the night
- KU clamped down defensively as they held WVU to just 0.85 PPP. The defense, and WVU missed free throws, is what kept the Jayhawks in this one
- In the middle of the game I had thoughts that this was the worst KU had played since the 2014 Kentucky massacre, that quickly changed to this being one of the best games I can remember in the Self era
- Svi Mykhailiuk has been dogged recently for his defense, but I thought he did a much better job on denying drives to hoop. He didn’t do much offensively (only 4 pts on 1-4 shooting), but he did a decent job defending
- Josh Jackson continues to grow. He’s making a case for the best freshman Bill Self has ever had at KU. There was a play in the first half where he backed his man down, gave him a little shake and kissed it off the glass for two. Its plays like that, that makes him an NBA player
- Landen Lucas proved, again, tonight that he’s the most important player on this KU team. He left the game with two fouls in the first half, and WVU promptly went on an 8-0 run. Lucas just does the little things that need to be done in order to be a championship team
- With 1:06 remaining in regulation KU trailed 67-60, at this point their win probability was <0.1%
- From the 3:00 (this when WVU was up 14) minute mark in regulation on, KU outscored WVU 34-26
- KU turned the ball over only 15 times against the Mountaineers. For the season WVU is forcing 22.2 per game, most in the nation
- KU was dreadful on layups tonight, as they were just 4/13 at the rim