MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Andrew Wiggins playing inside the WVU Coliseum was a one-time event that became an all-time treat.
Yet his magnificent 41-point outburst also became a footnote for No. 8 Kansas, overshadowed by the trio of Juwan Staten, Eron Harris and Devin Williams hoisting West Virginia to a 92-86 upset.
Said coach Bill Self after the ambush: “Their Big Three scored 74 on us and our Big One had 41.”
Said the Big One about breaking the Kansas freshman single-game scoring mark: “I’d rather score five points and win than 40 and lose.”
The prize of this season’s freshman class, Wiggins was never better than Saturday. And with all those points accompanied by eight rebounds, five steals and four blocks, Self wasn’t exaggerating when he said, “There’s nobody in America that will have a better game than what Andrew had today.”
Yet despite America’s best recruit playing his most complete game, Kansas left the floor with a loss, giving way to several thousand West Virginia students who made a gold rush to midcourt. Within seconds they raised Staten atop their shoulders, transforming him from point guard to crowd surfer. During that fun and frenzied conclusion, it was pleasing to see Staten reveling in the joy of the ride, letting a smile overtake the always-serious glare he maintained during his 24-point, nine-assist, five-rebound effort.
Will he be joining Wiggins on the NBA draft’s list of early entries? That’s a question Staten ducked in recent months, but on Saturday he let slip a maybe.
“That’s definitely what I expect to explore after the season,” Staten said. “Just want to put my name in and see what type of feedback I get and make a decision from there.”
Beyond conjecture of whether Staten should or shouldn’t return as a senior, there’s no disputing his immense value to West Virginia as a junior. Those 17 wins might be seven without Staten, who’s among the frontrunners for Big 12 player of the year, an honor to be tweeted from league headquarters Sunday.
Though accolades are secondary to winning, they make for terrific nuggets of offseason motivation. As Staten set new benchmarks for himself throughout last summer and fall, he arrived at two goals: earning unanimous selection to the coaches’ all-conference team, and winning player of the year.
Bob Huggins was prohibited from voting for his own player in the Big 12 race, but not so on his All-America ballot, which cast Staten as a first-teamer.
“I think he’s the best point guard in the country,” Huggins said.
In the current college basketball climate, the best point guard in the country typically doesn’t return to campus. That decision, however, is left for April. Based upon the 5,000-megawatt grin Staten flashed atop that mass of court-storming students, there’s still plenty of March to enjoy.