MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Leg cramps weren’t going to keep Juwan Staten from getting West Virginia to 20 wins for the first time in four seasons.
Staten scored 20 points, including a layup with 4 seconds left to lift No. 23 West Virginia to a 62-61 victory over No. 8 Kansas on Monday night.
It was a resume-building victory for the Mountaineers (20-6, 8-5 Big 12), who had lost three of their previous four games and four straight against ranked opponents. They’re looking for their first NCAA tournament bid in three seasons.
“This was definitely a must-win game at home,” Staten said. “We had the crowd behind us and we fought to the end.”
With the game on the line, coach Bob Huggins knew who he wanted to give the ball to: Staten, West Virginia’s leading scorer and the Big 12 preseason player of the year.
Staten took an inbounds pass and went the length of the court, made a spin move around Frank Mason III and hit a left-handed layup over the outstretched arms of two other Kansas defenders.
It was Staten’s first field goal over the final eight minutes after he had gone to the bench with cramps.
“That is exactly how we drew it up,” Staten said. “When I spinned, I’d seen nothing in the lane. I laid the ball up. It was a good call by coach.”
The Jayhawks’ Perry Ellis then caught a long pass but missed a layup off the back of the rim with Staten draping him just before the final buzzer.
“I might have rushed it a little bit, but I should have made it,” Ellis said.
Ellis finished with 19 points, Mason had 18 and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 14 points for first-place Kansas (21-5, 10-3), whose lead was trimmed to 1.5 games over No. 14 Iowa State.
Jevon Carter, who also played through leg cramps, added 13 points for West Virginia, including back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Mountaineers ahead 60-59 with 2:31 remaining.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my teammates for setting me up with good passes and good screens leading to open shots,” Carter said. “I just dug deep, knocked them in and gave my team the momentum.”
Mason made a layup with 2:13 left to give Kansas the lead, but the Jayhawks didn’t score again. He missed another layup with nine seconds left and the ball went out of bounds, setting up Staten’s heroics.
“He made a nice play, but we couldn’t have defended it worse,” said Kansas coach Bill Self.
Ellis had 15 points after halftime, capping a 10-0 run to start the second half with a 3-pointer to put Kansas ahead 40-33. But the Jayhawks later went seven minutes without a field goal.
Staten hit a layup and a jumper 50 seconds apart, and Jonathan Holton made a free throw to put West Virginia ahead 50-49 with 7:20 left.
Kansas: The Big 12’s top 3-point shooting team made 6 of 11. … Wayne Selden, who averaged 16 points over his five previous games, was held to four Monday night.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers led by as many as 11 points in the first half, were ahead 33-30 at halftime and were outscored in the second half for the fifth straight game. … Devin Williams reinjured his right hand that had been heavily taped in a loss at Iowa State on Saturday. Williams, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds a year ago in a home win over Kansas, finished with eight points and four rebounds.
Huggins admits his team doesn’t shoot well consistently, which is why he stresses getting multiple chances on offensive possessions. West Virginia leads the nation with 17 offensive rebounds per game and got 22 on Monday night.
Kansas hosts TCU on Saturday.
West Virginia plays at No. 22 Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.