LAWRENCE, Kan. — Only five times before, across 109 seasons of basketball, had West Virginia been limited to two free throws or fewer in a game.
When it happened a third time Saturday night, coach Bob Huggins overheated and was ejected in the final seconds of a 77-69 loss.
The frustration, Huggins claimed, had “been building” even before Kansas enjoyed a whopping 35-2 edge in free throws.
Frustrated by his team losing for the sixth straight year at Allen Fieldhouse, Huggins argued, “There’s something wrong to do that to kids who are playing their hearts out.”
Press Virginia was whistled for 26 fouls — though in actuality, it rarely pressed at all. Kansas committed 14 fouls.
“The sad part is (the Jayhawks) don’t need it,” Huggins said. “That’s a good team. They’re very well-coached. They don’t need that. They don’t need somebody to do that.”
Kansas coach Bill Self said the free-throw disparity loomed wider than any game he could recall, though he wasn’t ready to label the officiating as one-sided.
“I’d have to watch the tape,” Self said. “I’m going to reserve comment on anything other than I hated how the game ended.
“It was a good game, competitive, and both teams tried their butts off. Atmosphere was incredible — probably one of the best atmospheres anyone had all year in college basketball. I’m a fan of Huggs and I don’t like how the game ended. I wish it didn’t end that way.”
Based on the players’ physicality and the intensity generated by top-25 teams facing off for the second time this season, Self said the officials faced a dilemma.
“That’s a hard game,” he said. “You could call a foul every possession. You could call two or three fouls on every possession.”
The other five occasions in which West Virginia attempted two or fewer free throws?
— 2 attempts in 73-54 loss at Rutgers in (2004)
— 2 attempts in 17-14 win at Virginia (1923)
— 0 attempts in 60-58 loss at Syracuse (2006)
— 0 attempts in 37-15 win at East Liberty Prep School (1906)
— 0 attempts in17-16 loss at Geneva (1905)
Guess who’s in first place again?
With Texas Tech losing at Baylor late Saturday night, Kansas pulled into a first-place tie in the Big 12 standings.
They meet in Lubbock next Saturday, where the Jayhawks figure to have a chance at their 14th consecutive league title.
Azubuike vs. Konate
Kansas 7-footer Udoka Azubuike admits he doesn’t get excited about playing “soft bigs,” so he was plenty revved to battle West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate
“I’ve got it in the back of my head I’ve got to be strong against him, because if you’re not physical he’ll make you look like a kid,” Azubuike said. “He was physical. He was definitely physical.”
Azubuike got the best of the matchup with 21 points, and even made 7-for-10 free throws to far surpass his 42-percent season average.
“That was a big-boy game for him,” Self said.
Miles astonishes Kansas
Equally surprising as Azubuike’s foul shooting was Daxter Miles heating up from 3-point range for West Virginia.
The 25-percent long-range shooter set a career-best by sinking 6-of-9.
“They had a player who made six 3s tonight after he made three in the last three weeks,” Self said. “He went nuts and we couldn’t guard him. That wasn’t what we thought would be our biggest concern going in (but) he was great.”
West Virginia finished upside-down in one category it normally dominates, committing 13 turnovers while forcing only eight by Kansas. The Jayhawks also were plus-three during their January comeback win in Morgantown.… At just 6-foot-2, Graham grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, matching this career high. He also handed out seven assists.
“It’s always a big game playing against West Virginia. You’ve got to match their intensity or they’re going to blow you out.” — Udoka Azubuike