At times it looked more like a football or hockey game with bodies all over the floor and multiple players lost or severely hobbled due to injuries, but the Jayhawks showed they had more depth and toughness than perhaps anyone thought with a monumental comeback in the second half over West Virginia.
Unlike the first matchup, defense was the key for Kansas here, as they allowed the Mountaineers to score just .88 points per possession. The Jayhawks scored just under a point per possession, but most of that was due to not making a three , rebounding just 24 percent of their misses, and turning it over on 20.5 percent of their possessions (which, to be fair, is below WVU's season average). Kansas shot 58.3 percent on twos and truthfully it should have been higher had they made a couple bunnies in the first half.
On the other side of the ball, West Virginia started out hot from three but cooled off a bit towards the end of the game, making 36 percent of their shots beyond the arc, which is still a few above their season average but pales in comparison to Kansas's luck behind the arc. West Virginia shot just 34.2 percent on twos and just 57.1 percent from the line, sealing its fate.
The rebounding was an issue again, as Kansas allowed the Mountaineers to rebound 44.7 percent of their misses. Not having Cliff could be a killer in the NCAA tournament for no reason other than allowing teams to have multiple cracks at scoring every possession leads to a lot of losses. Some of them were due to rough bounces on 3-pointers, but a lot of it was Kansas not putting out much effort on the defensive glass, especially in terms of boxing out.
Speaking of at the line, Kansas discovered an important maxim against West Virginia: you can't commit a turnover at the free throw line. The Jayhawks attempted 43 of them, making 79.1 percent of their attempts, and erased the misfortune of the first meeting against West Virginia, when they attempted just 11 free throws. As for whether Kansas got a friendly whistle: certainly on a couple calls, such as Lucas's flop, but overall it's tough to say either way where West Virginia is concerned because of how often the team fouls. Much like how refs are reluctant to give Kansas's big men the benefit of the doubt because of their lack of size, they are reluctant to give West Virginia the benefit of the doubt because of how much they clutch and grab.
Elsewhere, Kansas did a pretty good job of forcing turnovers in its own right, getting steals on 16.7 percent of the Mountaineers possessions.
It was a lot tougher than it should have been, and Frank Mason and Perry Ellis probably shouldn't see the floor until the NCAA tournament, but it was a memorable senior night for Christian Garrett, and one that all the fans in the building will no doubt remember for a long time.
Last note: Shades of the 2012 Border War anyone? Huge deficit at halftime, big 2nd half comeback, huge block at the end of regulation, playing a team similar to Missouri. Hopefully Norfolk State isn't waiting for the Mountaineers in the NCAA tournament.
- Exhausted as he has been lately, Frank Mason had a turn back the clock type game, scoring 19 points on just 10 shots from the field. He also had 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. With how important he is to the team, and with the fact that Kansas can beat anybody when he is at his best, he needs to get some serious rest over the next two weeks.
- Wayne Selden really struggled, scoring just 4 points and going 0-4 beyond the arc, as well as committing 5 turnovers. Selden did have one of the biggest plays of the game, however, stealing the ball after two missed free throws and hammering it home for a dunk late in the contest.
- Jamari Traylor was the Jamari Traylor I expected all year, grabbing 9 rebounds (though just 3 defensive), and scoring 14 points on 5-9 shooting including a hammer dunk that will go in the Jayhawk dunk of the year contest.
- Perry Ellis sprained his knee in the first half, but walked out to the end of the bench without crutches towards the end of the game and climbed the ladder to help cut down the net, so hopefully it won't be too bad. It sounds like if it were a big NCAA tournament game he could play Saturday, but with the game being meaningless it is best to sit him down, and probably give him minimal run in the Big 12 tournament as well.
- Landen Lucas had 6 rebounds, a steal, and a game saving block in the last seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime.
- Devonte Graham struggled in this one, committing 4 turnovers next to just 1 assist, but made 2 huge free throws at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime.
- Kelly Oubre was one of Kansas's best players in this one, making all 5 of his twos, grabbing 3 rebounds, and posterizing a poor WVU player with a massive two handed dunk late in the game.
- Brannen Greene was 0-5 from three, and needless to say he needs to find his shot in a hurry.
- Hunter Mickelson saved everyone's ass, scoring 8 points on 2-2 shooting, grabbing 2 rebounds, getting 3 steals, and blocking 2 shots. For his faults, I am still a bit surprised he hasn't gotten a lot of playing time this year given Self's reliance on rim protection, but I do think he will get 15ish minutes per game next season and be a valuable defensive piece.