MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The noise at WVU Coliseum was deafening from Wednesday night’s opening tip, with a sellout crowd that included Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger straining to help lift the No. 14 Mountaineers past No. 3 Kansas.
West Virginia was well on its way to pleasing that audience before going dead silent for the game’s final five minutes, unraveling in a cavalcade of turnovers and missed shots that allowed the Jayhawks to leave the state with a 58-49 win to maintain an inside track on one of the NCAA tournament’s coveted No. 1 seeds.
For West Virginia, it was the first home loss of the season.
The Mountaineers (18-6, 6-5 Big 12) went scoreless for the final 5:07, allowing Kansas (21-3, 10-1) to finish the game on a 9-0 run despite the fact the Jayhawks themselves didn’t make a field goal in the final 4:50.
“They did a good job of making us play bad, which they do to most people,” said Kansas coach Bill Self. “We haven’t won here a ton, and we’ve never won here where it was pretty.”
West Virginia’s scoreless stretch was ugly in every manner.
“They got the loose balls,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “Every ball that got tipped in the air on a rebound, they got. They beat us to the ball.”
The Mountaineers committed five turnovers and shot 0-for-9 from the field. They even threw in a pair of missed free throws for good measure despite shooting a respectable 7-for-9 from the line up until that point.
Kansas guard Marcus Garrett was the primary culprit in the Mountaineers’ meltdown. Garrett had four steals in the final seven minutes, including a string of three thefts in a four-possession span.
“Who guards better than him, anywhere?” Self asked. “He took guys with the game on the line. He controlled the game on that end.”
West Virginia was woeful in every offensive metric.
The Mountaineers shot below 32 percent from the field for the second straight game, finishing 19 of 60. The last time WVU shot so poorly from the field in consecutive games was Jan. 2013 — otherwise known as the worst team in Bob Huggins’ 38 seasons as a head coach.
West Virginia was 4 of 17 (23.5 percent) from three-point range, marking the team’s worst performance from long range since its first meeting with Kansas on Jan. 4.
The shooting issues were compounded by 19 turnovers, including 13 steals. Garrett accounted for five of those steals, which accounted for Kansas’ 12-0 edge in fast-break points.
“He was just more aggressive,” said West Virginia guard Jordan McCabe. “We talk about it every single day. The aggressive man, the aggressive team, in every walk of life, generally wins.”
Kansas point guard Devon Dotson led all scorers with 15 points. Isaiah Moss added 13, including a three-pointer that gave the Jayhawks a 52-49 lead with 4:54 remaining. It was the final field goal for either team.
Oscar Tshiebwe led the Mountaineers with 14 points, 12 of which came in the first half.
McCabe was West Virginia’s next-best scorer with 10 points.
By the numbers
After taking a lead with 14:07 left in the first half, West Virginia did not trail again until the Jayhawks took a one-point lead with 5:22 remaining… Kansas has won seven of its last eight meetings with the Mountaineers.
Life gets no easier for the Mountaineers this weekend, with a trip to No. 1 Baylor looming on Saturday afternoon.