MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University team was a a perfect 12-0 in games played in Morgantown prior to Wednesday’s contest against No. 3 Kansas, but the Mountaineers’ unblemished record at the Coliseum is no more after late-game mistakes against the Jayhawks.
No. 14 West Virginia led for almost 30 minutes of Wednesday’s game before poor shooting and turnovers — problems all season for WVU — showed up again down the stretch in a 58-49 loss to KU.
“They got the loose balls,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “Every ball that got tipped in the air on a rebound, they got. They beat us to the ball. We got 60 shots and made 19. We had what, 76, the last game? It’s not like we’re not getting shots. We’re not making any.”
The game closely resembled the first meeting between the two teams last month at Allen Fieldhouse. West Virginia (18-6, 6-4 Big 12) got off to a good start behind a solid first half from freshman Oscar Tshiebwe. Kansas big men Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack were both in foul trouble in the first half and WVU owned a 30-24 lead at the break.
“I thought West Virginia was a lot better than us in the first half,” KU coach Bill Self said. “We were awful, and we guarded OK but we didn’t rebound it.”
The Jayhawks (21-3, 10-1) came out of halftime committed to getting to the rim, and found some success early to tie the game at 30. West Virginia punched back, however, and took a nine-point lead at 41-32 with a little more than 13 minutes to play. That, however, is when the wheels started to wobble for the Mountaineers. A few minutes later, those wheels would fall all the way off.
WVU finished Wednesday’s game with 19 turnovers — 11 of those coming during the final 20 minutes. As a team, West Virginia made just 19 of its 60 field goal attempts, 4 of 17 attempts from 3-point range and 7 of 11 foul shots. The Mountaineers did not score during the final 5:07 against KU and committed six turnovers during the game’s final six minutes as Kansas closed the game on a 13-1 run during the same span.
“I don’t know what to say, whether it’s we’re not mature enough, we’re not experienced enough, we aren’t tough enough to grind out games like this,” Huggins said. “We’re playing against a very experienced team. We have an average of 1.2 years of experience on our team, which is a whole lot lower when you take into account that (senior forward) Logan (Routt) really doesn’t play. (Senior guard) Chase (Harler) doesn’t play a whole lot of minutes. (Senior guard) Jermaine (Haley) doesn’t play a whole lot of minutes, so it’s probably less than that, really. That’s a fact. That’s not an excuse, it’s a fact.”
Kansas was led by guards Devon Dotson (15 points, four rebounds) and Isaiah Moss (13 points, including three 3-pointers). KU forwards Azubuike and McCormack both suffered in the box score from their early foul trouble but were around to make important plays late in the game for the Jayhawks. Marcus Garrett, who played almost every second of the game for Kansas, finished with nine points, seven rebounds and five steals.
“(Azubuike) gives them a defensive force in there that makes it tough to score driving it to the basket, and offensively he’s a brute,” Huggins said. “Garrett has been very good for them for a long time. I thought we did a pretty good job for a while, and then we got too spread out.”
For WVU, Tshiebwe scored a team-high 14 points — though 12 of those came in the first half — and grabbed nine rebounds in the loss. Sophomore point guard Jordan McCabe was the only other Mountaineer to score in double digits at 10 points, but also accounted for four turnovers. WVU’s three primary point guards — McCabe, freshman Miles “Deuce” McBride and sophomore Brandon Knapper — totaled eight turnovers and zero assists against KU on Wednesday.
“Wins fall on the team and losses fall on the point guard,” McCabe said after the game. “Myself, Deuce, Knap — we all take full responsibility for that. We’re not taking care of the ball. We knew we had to (take care of the ball) and down the stretch you give them more possessions than you get. That’s how they win games.”
It does not get any easier for the West Virginia next time out. WVU visits No. 1 Baylor on Saturday with tipoff scheduled for 4 p.m. with a streaming-only broadcast on ESPN+.