MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No. 10 Kansas was barreling toward a fifth straight loss at the WVU Coliseum until Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham cued a second-half rally.
Hot crunch-time shooting by the seniors rallied the Jayhawks from 16 points down for a stunning 71-66 comeback win at No. 6 West Virginia.
“It means a lot — I can’t even describe it,” Graham said. “When you don’t win somewhere your whole career and then you get the last one, it’s huge.”
The way it transpired, he admitted, made Monday night’s win “one to remember.”
Mykhailiuk finished with 17 points, Graham scored 16, and the pair combined for 20 points during the final 7:43 as Kansas (15-3, 5-1) ended a four-year skid in Morgantown.
Just as coach Bill Self changed his attire by donning a pullover gifted from Bob Huggins, his Jayhawks have changed their demeanor since December when Self labeled this “the softest team I’ve had here.”
Now, it was Huggins’ turn to call his team soft. Soft for hoisting 27 shots from 3-point range instead of passing and attacking. Soft for abandoning the defensive scouting report and letting Kansas end the game on 20-6 run.
“They just out-toughed us. They just wanted it more than we did,” Huggins said.
“They just out-toughed us. They just wanted it more than we did.” — Bob Huggins
The Mountaineers (15-3, 4-2) repeated the failed script of two days prior when they squandered an 11-point lead at Texas Tech. This time not even a sold-out home crowd could propel them to the finish. They shot 5-of-27 from 3, and over the final 10 minutes they produced only two shots close to the rim, one a Daxter Miles tip-in off a missed free throw.
“All those 3-point shots is a lack of toughness. That’s the easy way out,” Huggins said.
Sagaba Konate finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, making 7-of-10 shots despite taking another ill-advised long-range jumper (which is becoming a nightly temptation). West Virginia’s other four starters combined to make 12-of-40.
Jevon Carter’s 14-point output proved inefficient (4-of-15 shooting), including misfires on three 3s in the final 71 seconds. Two of those evoked shades of March Madness vs. Gonzaga, with the offense bogging down and leaving Carter to take low-percentage attempts.
“I just felt like I had enough space to get them off,” he said. “They felt good, looked good, just didn’t go in.”
While Huggins agreed “JC had the ball too much,” the coach attributed it to no one else getting open. Compounding West Virginia’s 35-percent shooting in the second half was this atrocious production: 11 turnovers and only 10 baskets.
West Virginia led 33-17 with 5:41 left in the first half before taking a 41-28 cushion to the locker room.
Then the lead melted away, predicating an upside-down performance by “Press Virginia,” which forced only 13 turnovers and committed 16.
Kansas posted its largest come-from-behind road win in more than two decades.
“In the huddle, I told the guys just keep chipping away, chipping away,” Graham said. “I told the guys it felt like (West Virginia) had kind of relaxed.”
“In the huddle, I told the guys just keep chipping away, chipping away. I told the guys it felt like (West Virginia) had kind of relaxed.” — Jayhawks guard Devonte’ Graham
The intensity waned on defense when Mykhailiuk was twice left open for corner 3s. Then Graham had several seconds to set himself for an uncontested jumper from the opposite side that temporarily tied it at 59-all. After a video review of an earlier basket resulted in WVU being credited with a 60-59 lead, Mykhailiuk made two free throws to put the visitors ahead.
At the 1:43 mark, Mykhailiuk drove past Esa Ahmad for a high-arching layup that put the Jayhawks ahead for good, 65-64.
“Svi and Devonte’ made a ton of plays late,” Self said.