No team in the NCAA has a harder week this week than the 11th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. On Tuesday night, they took on the #1 team in the country, the Kansas Jayhawks, in Morgantown, WV.
Then, if things couldn’t get any harder, the Mountaineers have to go on the road on Saturday to Norman, OK to take on the #2 team in the country, the Oklahoma Sooners.
Entering Tuesday night, the Mountaineers and the Jayhawks were tied atop the Big 12 standings with identical 3-0 records in conference play. West Virginia came in riding a 7-game winning streak following their loss to the Virginia Cavaliers, and the Jayhawks came in riding a 13-game winning streak following their loss to the Michigan State Spartans.
There was one more streak that put momentum on the side of the Mountaineers. They had won their last two games against the Kansas Jayhawks in Morgantown, and were looking for history to repeat itself.
After some back-and-forth action early on, the Mountaineers started to take control as the first half wound down, and they never looked back.
Once West Virginia took the lead at the 11:44 mark of the first half, they put things on lock down and didn’t let the Jayhawks hold another lead. The Mountaineers sent the fans in Morgantown court-storming with their 74-63 victory over the top team in the country, the Kansas Jayhawks.
In the early parts of the game, it was back-and-forth. The Jayhawks were doing their best to quiet down the home crowd, and they were able to take a 5-point lead just over 5 minutes into the game. Frank Mason III made one-of-two free throws to give Kansas a 14-9 lead.
Little did we know at the time, but that would be the last lead that Kansas would hold for the remainder of the game.
The Mountaineers went on an 8-0 run over the next three-plus minutes to take a 17-14 lead. Nathan Adrian capped off the run with a three-pointer out of the under-12 media timeout, electrifying the Mountaineer fans in attendance and across the country in the process.
West Virginia would slowly build on their lead as the first half wound down. Perry Ellis would bring the Jayhawks to within 2, points at the 7:09 mark, but that was as close as they would get. For the Mountaineers, Jaysean Paige would score 7 straight points, pushing them to a 29-23 lead before the under-4 media break.
Strong free throw shooting for the Mountaineers down the stretch, and subsequently poor free throw shooting for Kansas, allowed the Mountaineers to take a 37-29 lead into the locker room.
The second half opened like the first half ended, with the Mountaineers growing their lead. Esa Ahmad made a lay-up at the 16:32 mark to give West Virginia a 13-point lead, at 43-30.
Credit the Jayhawks for not rolling over, and for continuing to fight. After the Ahmad lay-up, Ellis scored five straight points for the Jayhawks to spearhead a 9-0 run that brought Kansas back to within 4 points with plenty of time still on the clock.
West Virginia would bend, but wouldn’t break. Back-to-back lay-ups from Paige and Tarik Phillip pushed the lead back to 8, and crisis was averted for the Mountaineers.
Over the rest of the game, the outcome of the contest never looked to be in question. The Jayhawks pushed the lead to as many as 14-points when Paige made one-of-two free throws with 2:49 left on the clock.
Fans could taste the upset, and knew it was coming. Strong free throw shooting down the stretch for West Virginia solidified the victory, and a dunk from Paige with 15 seconds left on the clock was the cherry on top.
When the final buzzer went, fans stormed the court to celebrate with their beloved West Virginia Mountaineers. The #11 West Virginia Mountaineers took down the #1 Kansas Jayhawks in Morgantown, 74-63.
Three different players scored in double-figures for the Jayhawks on the night, but it wasn’t enough to lead them to victory. Perry Ellis recorded a team-high 21 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 3 assists, shooting 8-of-14 from the floor in the process.
Frank Mason added 12 points in the game, but also committed 7 turnovers. Wayne Selden, Jr. added 11 points of his own, but also committed 6 turnovers in the loss.
As a team, Kansas shot a dismal 50% (10-of-20) from the free throw line, which was a big factor in the outcome of the game.
On their home floor, the Mountaineers wouldn’t be denied. The usual suspects led the way for Coach Huggins and the Mountaineers, and they did so in a big way. Jaysean Paige scored a game-high 26 points, going 14-of-17 from the free throw line in the game as well. He took advantage of his free opportunities, and made the most of them.
Devin Williams recorded his 7th double-double of the season, and first in Big 12 play, recording 17 points and 12 rebounds in the win. Guard Jevon Carter added 10 points of his own, while Jonathan Holton was held to just 2 points but pulled down 8 rebounds.
After their triple-overtime thriller against the Sooners and a big road win over Texas Tech, the Kansas Jayhawks (14-2, 3-1) were unable to keep their winning streak going. Tuesday night marked the third-straight loss for the Jayhawks in Morgantown, WV. Kansas will return to the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday for an afternoon matinee against the TCU Horned Frogs.
Tuesday night’s victory was the first win over an AP #1 team since 1987 (UNLV) for the West Virginia Mountaineers (15-1, 4-0). They now sit alone atop the Big 12 standings, a game clear of Kansas. They will look to extend their winning streak to 9 games, and add another marquee victory to their resume, on Saturday afternoon when they head on the road to take on the #2 Oklahoma Sooners.
With a win over the Sooners, would the Mountaineers be the #1 team in the country? Only time will tell.