In a couple of firsts for Kansas, the Jayhawks survive a furious Mountaineer comeback to win Monday, January 28, 2013, 61-56. It was the first time Kansas has been ranked No. 1 in either national poll this season and the first time ever that Kansas has played West Virginia in men’s basketball. With this win, Kansas also extends its winning streak to 18 games, the best in the country.
The Jayhawks put on a show early on going up by as much as 15 before WVU opted to not allow Kansas to just walk out with an easy victory. Coming in off the bench, junior center Aaric Murray led the floor with 17 points from the Mountaineers, while sophomore guard Juwan Staten added 14 points. This after Staten was obviously not in the good graces of coach Bob Huggins and could been seen pouting on the bench when taken out of the game and berated by Huggins on the sideline in the first half. After shaking off the bad attitude, Staten was instrumental in bringing West Virginia back from the brink of a blowout.
With 6 minutes to play in the first half, Kansas became lackadaisical with late passes and lazy ball handling while WVU was looking to capitalize. At that point the Hawks had a 15 point lead and it was whittled to 8 by halftime. With 10:18 left in the second half, WVU looked to have the momentum narrowing the Kansas lead to 2 points, but Ben McLemore decided to put the team on his back offensively and kicked in a bucket and two free throws to add cushion to the KU lead.
How much longer can Kansas depend on team to miss shots in the closing minutes while they fail to convert on free throws? Going 18 for 34 will not win many games. Yes, the Kansas defense was solid holding WVU to 37% shooting, but the Mountaineers could not make a shot when they needed it the most. With multiple chances and open looks, WVU just could not convert in the clutch. Lucky for Kansas.
Kansas had that killer instinct until the 6 minute mark in the first period. For whatever reason, the team let up, lost focus and let WVU back in the game. Credit to West Virginia for taking advantage.
If the Jayhawks want a number 1 seed for the NCAA tournament, they had better find and keep that aggressive offensive attitude. There are a lot more teams outside of the Big 12 conference that are capable of overcoming a tough Kansas defense.
The Jayhawks return home to host Oklahoma State on Saturday, February 2, at 3 P.M. on the Big 12 Television Network.
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