LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Bill Self has won 190 of the 199 games he’s coached in Allen Fieldhouse. This may have been the most satisfying, and improbable, of them all.
The ninth-ranked Jayhawks were down 18 points to No. 20 West Virginia, a team that had beaten them on the road two weeks earlier. They would be outrebounded 46-34. Two of their best players were out of the game. And from behind the 3-point arc, they would go 0 for 15.
Somehow they won.
Frank Mason III scored the final six points of overtime and the Jayhawks clinched their 11th straight Big 12 regular season championship with a 76-69 victory Tuesday night. They missed by only one point of matching the biggest comeback in the 60-year history of Allen Fieldhouse.
“We haven’t had a better win here for higher stakes than what that was,” said an exhausted Self.
“As a coach, when you have good players and you play well, you should win. But it always means a little more when you can’t get anything going and somehow the kids figure out a way to do it. It was pretty special for me to sit there and watch those guys pull it off.”
Mason had 19 points for the Jayhawks, whose 11 straight conference titles trail only the 13 in a row UCLA won in the John Wooden era.
Junior forward Perry Ellis, the Jayhawks’ leading scorer, appeared to injure his knee late in the first half and did not return. Forward Cliff Alexander, who is awaiting an NCAA ruling on an eligibility issue, was also out.
“Our main goal as a team was to get stops, keep fighting and keep believing,” said Mason, the starting point guard.
Daxter Miles had 23 points for West Virginia (22-8, 10-7), which was without star guard Juwan Staten, who had scored at least 20 points in each of the last three games against Kansas. Also out with an injury was guard Gary Browne.
“We deserved to win the game. We really did,” said a visibly upset West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “We just didn’t do enough at the end.”
Kansas, which clinched at least a share of the title with Iowa State’s victory over Oklahoma on Monday, finally tied it 59-all on two free throws by Devonte Graham with 11.5 seconds left in regulation. Miles’ 3-pointer gave West Virginia a quick 63-61 overtime lead before Jamari Traylor’s three-point play made it 64-63.
Mason went 4 for 4 from the free throw line in the waning seconds, the final shot going in with 4.1 seconds to play as the Jayhawks completed a 16-0 home season.
“Guys were stepping up and we fought back,” said Traylor, who had 14 points. “We don’t get scared. We always know it’s a possibility that we can come back.”
The Mountaineers stunned the favored Jayhawks and their 230th consecutive sellout crowd with an 18-4 run in the first half to take a 22-10 lead. Kelly Oubre’s basket had Kansas ahead 6-4 with 16:59 left in the half. But stymied by West Virginia’s swarming defense and overwhelmed on the offensive and defensive boards, the Jayhawks did not make another field goal until Hunter Mickelson, a little-used reserve, got a layup at the 8:31 mark
The Mountaineers’ lead reached 38-22 when Tarik Phillip’s two free throws and basket capped an 8-0 spurt near the end of the half. The Jayhawks, who were 0 for 7 from behind the arc and were outrebounded 26-11, were within 40-26 at halftime by hitting 12 of 14 free throws.
Kansas: As soon as the game ended, Kansas closed down the Booth Family Hall of Athletics. The hall, attached to the east side of Allen Fieldhouse, will be closed for six months to make room for construction of the DeBruce Center, which is being built to house James Naismith’s original rules for basketball that a Kansas fan bought on auction for $4.3 million and donated to the university.
West Virginia: In their take-charge first half, the Mountaineers had more offensive rebounds (14) than defensive (12).
Kansas’ 11 straight conference titles ties the streak Gonzaga put together from 2001-11. … West Virginia managed only 19 points in the second half.
Kansas: “Perry (Ellis) had the flu and got off to a bad start anyway, then he gets hurt. The good news is we think he can be back in a week or so.” — coach Bill Self.
West Virginia: “There are some things that happened that are just hard to explain.” — coach Bob Huggins
Kansas: at Oklahoma on Saturday.
West Virginia: hosts Oklahoma State on Saturday.
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