MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Eron Harris
scored 28 and Juwan Staten
added 24, but it was the 22 points scored by freshman Devin Williams
that really made the difference in West Virginia’s 92-86 victory over eighth-rated Kansas Saturday afternoon at the WVU Coliseum.
Williams, a 40 percent shooter coming into today’s game, made his first seven field goal attempts and finished the game 8 of 10 from the floor in establishing a new season high for points. The 6-foot-9-inch freshman forward also pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds in the Mountaineers’ biggest victory of the season.
“This is the first college game that his dad saw him play,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “Mom’s been here a few times and it seems like he plays a whole lot better when mom’s here. That’s kind of what we were hoping he could do.
“He was a man today. He made hard shots. He made shots through contact, which he hasn’t done and today he did a great job of that,” Huggins added.
After West Virginia lost to Kansas 83-69 out in Lawrence back on Feb. 8 in a game that was much more competitive than the final score might indicate, Bob Huggins said on his postgame radio show that his team would beat Kansas in Morgantown at the end of the year.
Turns out he knows what he was talking about.
“I just thought we really played them tough in Lawrence until the four-minute mark and they did a really good job of guarding Eron in the last four minutes,” said Huggins. “Fortunately, we got up enough on them today to kind of spread them and shorten the game a little bit.”
West Virginia put up 50 on the Jayhawks in the first half and led by as many as 25 points early in the second half, forcing Kansas coach Bill Self to burn all of his timeouts before the first media timeout of the second half.
But Kansas didn’t quit, mainly because they have Andrew Wiggins, the best freshman player in the country, and perhaps the best player in the country.
Wiggins was certainly as good as advertised today, scoring 14 straight points during one stretch late in the second half and finishing with a season-high 41 before fouling out with 16 seconds left. It was one of the best performances ever by an opposing player in the 44-year history of the WVU Coliseum and ties five other players, including Notre Dame's Adrian Dantley, for the eight-most ever by an opposing player against the Mountaineers. It was also the most points scored by an opposing player against West Virginia since Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell put up 41 on Dec. 26, 2009.
“I think Wiggins showed everybody today why he is going to be the first or second pick in the draft,” said Huggins. “He made hard shots.”
However, Kansas was down a man and it made a big difference in today’s game. Seven-foot center Joel Embiid was back in Lawrence resting his ailing back that has now kept him out of the last two games, and perhaps even longer.
The first time these two teams met Embiid scored 11 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked three shots as the Jayhawks had a nine-rebound advantage over the Mountaineers.
Today, those numbers were almost flipped with West Virginia holding a 37-31 advantage on the glass and the Mountaineer guards consistently attacking the glass without Embiid in there to swat away their shot attempts.
"Did we miss Joel Embiid? We probably did," said Kansas coach Bill Self. "To be honest, Devin Williams
made a lot of his shots stepping away from the basket. In the first 17 games in the Big 12 we have been a good rebounding team. Today we were not efficient at rebounding at all. Joel Embiid would have probably helped that number."
After shooting a torrid 63 percent in the first half, West Virginia cooled off in the second half and finished the game shooting 52.9 percent. The Mountaineers also cashed in at the free throw line by making 29 of 40 for 72.5 percent.
Kansas (23-8, 14-4) finished the game shooting 45.2 percent from the floor (28 of 62) while hitting 68.8 percent from the free throw line (22 of 32).
“We wanted to control the tempo of the game and we didn’t want to give them easy baskets and we gave them easy baskets off the offensive glass a little bit,” said Huggins. “But we didn’t give them run outs, we didn’t give them transition baskets and we didn’t give them live-ball turnovers to be able to score off of.”
Today’s win was Huggins’ ninth against a top 10 team and his 23rd against a nationally ranked team while at West Virginia. This was also West Virginia's first victory against the Jayhawks in four meetings.
The Mountaineers now show three wins over ranked teams this year – all at home – and boost their overall record to 17-14. More importantly, West Virginia finishes its second season of Big 12 play with a .500 record and with no seniors on its roster.
Seeding for the upcoming Big 12 tournament will be determined at the conclusion of today’s games. West Virginia is currently sixth in the league standings but could fall to eighth based on how Oklahoma State and Baylor fare this afternoon.