The Kansas Jayhawks kept their winning streak alive and took over sole possession of first place in the Big 12 on Saturday thanks to a slim, dramatic win over the West Virginia Mountaineers 76-74.
It was a close game throughout, with KU’s biggest lead reaching eight points and West Virginia never going up by five. The Jayhawks extended their late-game advantage up to seven points with just 2:17 left thanks to a jumper from senior guard Kevin McCullar, but from that point forward they went into survival mode as the Mountaineers built up late momentum, thanks both to their own scoring ability and some Kansas miscues.
The biggest mistake of the afternoon belonged to WVU, however. Down by two with After a free throw by KU junior forward Jalen Wilson with 23 seconds left gave the Jayhawks a two-point edge, West Virginia never got a shot off to try to tie the game. Instead, with just four tenths of a second remaining, West Virginia senior guard Joe Toussaint committed a travel, turning it over and preserving the Kansas victory.
“I told our guys after the game, I’m happy we won,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “But if that was a second-round NCAA tournament game, our season would be over.”
All five starters for the third-ranked Jayhawks reached double figures in scoring in the win, led by 17 points from junior guard Dajuan Harris. McCullar and freshman guard Gradey Dick added 16 points apiece, and for McCullar that included a banked-in three pointer to beat the shot clock late in the second half.
That shot, paired with another strong defensive performance, was the latest chapter in what’s been arguably his best stretch of the season.
“I know Kevin banked it in and that was luck,” Self said. “But he’s making a lot of winning plays for us right now.”
Sophomore forward K.J. Adams scored 13 points in the win while Wilson added 11. Kansas shot nearly 55% from the floor in the win and 50% from three, but it also committed 19 turnovers. West Virginia actually gave the ball away even more times with 21 turnovers, and it shot 45.9% for the game. Senior guard Erik Stevenson led the Mountaineers with 23 points in the loss.
Knocking off West Virginia was, in effect, one of two wins for Kansas this weekend. The Jayhawks got a favor from the Texas Longhorns, who lost to the Baylor Bears 81-72. That moves KU one game ahead of Texas in the Big 12 standings with just two games remaining. Kansas and Texas play in the regular-season finale next week, so if the Jayhawks win just one of their final two games they will clinch a share of the conference championship.
Before that final game of the year Kansas has one more home game on Tuesday night against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. That game is set for an 8:00 tip.
For more reaction to the Kansas Jayhawks’ 76-74 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers, check out Mic’d Up with Jake and Fulton from noon-3:00 p.m., and 580 Sports Talk with Brendan and Dan from 3-6:00 p.m. Monday on 580 WIBW.