Andrew Wiggins cracked the 40-point barrier with his 12th and final shot of the game. His career-best 41 points pulled No. 8/8 Kansas out of a 25-point hole at West Virginia, slashing the Jayhawks’ largest deficit of the year to four in the final minute, but the Mountaineers held on for the 92-86 win inside WVU Coliseum on Saturday.
Big 12 Conference regular-season champion Kansas (23-8, 14-4 Big 12) looked dead in the water at West Virginia (17-14, 9-9 Big 12). The Jayhawks had allowed its most points by halftime in more than seven years, had used all of their timeouts four minutes into the second half and gave up a 14-1 run to start the final frame to find themselves trailing 64-39 – it’s largest deficit of the season.
Nevertheless, Kansas went to work. Wiggins’ remarkable 41 points on 12-of-18 shooting were the most by a Jayhawk since Terry Brown put up 42 against North Carolina State on Jan. 5, 1991. The effort also marked the second-best scoring game by a freshman in Big 12 history (44, Michael Beasley, K-State at Baylor, 2/23/08). He added 15-of-19 from the free throw line, the most since former guard Tyshawn also knocked down 15 (15-of-17 vs. Kentucky, 11/15/11).
Refusing to surrender to the ridiculous deficit and the sold-out crowd, forwards Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas came up with four big points, before stepping aside for Wiggins. He was phenomenal, buckling down for four-straight free throws. The Canadian put his squad on his back. He grabbed a rebound and immediately took it down the court, pulled up and nailed a three pointer – slicing the deficit to 10 points, 78-68.
Relentless and untiring despite a career-high 39 minutes, Wiggins answered an Eron Harris layup with his second three-pointer of the game and when the Mountaineers went to throw the ball in, he took that, too. Wiggins ripped the ball away from Harris and jammed it through the Kansas basket. Still going, Wiggins pulled up for another jumper – his 40th and 41st points of the game.
West Virginia by 10.
His teammates finally took hold. Senior forward Tarik Black made a layup, but it was freshman guard Frank Mason who nearly capped the comeback. He hit his second three-pointer of the game and, exactly one minute later, his third.
West Virginia by five.
Less than 30 seconds remained when Wiggins was dragged out of the game, his fifth foul was all that could keep him away from leading the last leg of the comeback. Yet his replacement, fellow freshman Brannen Greene, took his spot with a three-pointer of his own.
West Virginia by four.
But the Mountaineers held on. Only 12 seconds were left on the clock following Greene’s trey and Harris made the final pair of free throws to finally put the brakes on the Jayhawks’ freight train of a comeback.
The most potent scoring duo in the league, Harris and junior Juwan Staten, were viciously on-point per the usual – but the first-half dagger came from freshman forward Devin Williams. Typically an 8.3 ppg player, Williams couldn’t be stopped in the first half. He was 7-for-7 by halftime and ended his day with a career-high 22 points. The trio had 45 of the home team’s 50 points in the first half – marking the first time Kansas has given up 50 points by halftime since scored 54 inside Allen Fieldhouse on March 3, 2007 – a game Kansas came back to win.
Not so on Saturday. By game’s end, the three WVU leaders accounted for 74 of its 92 points. Harris led the Mountaineers with 28 points, including five three-pointers, while Staten nearly tallied a double-double with 24 points and nine assists. Williams did finish with a double-double as his 13 rebounds tied a career-high.
In unbelievable fashion, only four Jayhawks had scored by halftime and waited almost eight minutes into the second half for Mason to make it five. Wiggins did all he could as he and sophomore forward Perry Ellis scored 17 and 11, respectively, by halftime. Ellis finished with 14 points and Mason added 10, but no other player eclipsed double-digits. Aside from his career scoring performance, Wiggins also led the team with eight rebounds and recorded five steals, the most by a Jayhawk this season.
West Virginia began its day with the fewest turnovers in the league and used it to its advantage against a Jayhawk team with various inconsistencies in the turnover column. They committed only three by halftime, but KU forced 10 WVU mishaps in the second half to push the Mountaineers into double-digit turnovers for the eighth time this season.