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Kansas Somehow Beats West Virginia, 76-69

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Umm... what happened? KU comes from 18 points down to put away West Virginia and claim sole possession of the Big 12 regular season conference championship.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Senior Night.  Allen Fieldhouse.  Normally a very special night.  And I'm sure it was a special night for Mr. Christian Garrett, who got his first career start.  Garrett started and even put up a stat in the box score - a personal foul.  KU got an early 6-4 lead, but unfortunately, things would turn sour quickly for the Jayhawks.

Before you knew it, West Virginia had a 17-6 lead.  Then it was 25-12.  Then 32-20.  Then 40-22.  Jayhawk fans had to have been wondering what, exactly, they were watching.  Halftime saw a punchless Kansas squad trailing by a 40-26 margin to a West Virginia squad missing its best player, Juwan Staten.  And to make matters worse, Perry Ellis went down with a knee injury late in the first half, and his return was questionable.

In the second half, the Jayhawks would fight back.  They would get the margin down to six or so points, then West Virginia would push it back up to 10 or 12.  Kansas would once again come down to six or seven, and the Mountaineers would push it back up.  Finally, down 57-49 with 2:00 left on the clock, Kansas began their final push, triggered by a pair of Brannen Greene free throws.

The Jayhawks scraped and clawed their way back into the game and found themselves down by two with 0:19 left and the ball.  Devonte' Graham would get fouled in a double-team with 12 seconds left, and would sink both free throws to tie the game.  After a couple of desperation WVU shots (with Huggins screaming for a timeout all the while), the game went into overtime.

Overtime was a back-and-forth affair until Kansas managed to grab a six-point lead with 0:45 remaining.  WVU's Daxter Miles calmly drilled an NBA-range three-pointer to bring the 'Eers within three.  After nearly turning it over, KU managed a timeout and West Virginia was forced to foul.  Frank Mason stepped to the line in a silent Allen Fieldhouse, nailed two free throws, and it was curtains for West Virginia.  A WVU three-pointer clanged off, Mason sank two more free throws, and Kansas won a game it had no business winning.

Perry Ellis did not play in the second half.

At one point in the second half, I was pretty sure this Kansas team wouldn't be able to beat IMG Academy, Findlay Prep, or even Wichita East - let alone the Topeka YMCA.  By the end of this game, I didn't know what to think anymore.  Meanwhile, the Jayhawks would celebrate their outright conference championship by cutting down the nets - much to Buddy Hield's chagrin, I'm sure.

KU's last eight points of the game came from Frank Mason, six on foul shots.  Mason led Kansas scorers with 19 points on 4/10 shooting.  Jamari Traylor added 14 points on 5/9 shooting and Kelly Oubre put in 12 more with his 5/7 effort from the field.

West Virginia slaughtered the Jayhawks on the boards, picking up 46 rebounds to KU's 34.  Traylor had nine rebounds and Mason picked up seven.

As a team, Kansas shot an amazing 0/15 (0.00%) from 3-pt range.  Let that sink in for a moment.  I'll give you a paragraph break so you can go back and re-read it.  (In their last three games, the Jayhawks are 3/36 from behind the three-point arc.  That's 8.33%.  That's really, really bad.)

West Virginia went 9/25 (36.0%) from behind the arc. The Mountaineers were led by Jonathon Holton (2/4, 50%, a 20% three-point shooter on the year) and Daxter Miles (5/9, 55%, a 31% three-point shooter on the year).

Kansas hit 34-43 (79.1%) free throws to WVU's 16/28 (57.1%).

Up next, Kansas travel to Norman, Oklahoma to face the Sooners in the regular season finale on March 7 at 3 PM Jayhawk time.