MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Despite shooting 54 percent and outrebounding WVU by nine, Kansas still had to scratch and claw its way to a 61-56 win over the Mountaineers on Monday night.
It was the effort of 7-foot center Jeff Withey that pushed the Jayhawks to their initial lead and ultimately sealed the deal on the defensive end. The senior, who came in averaging 13 points per game, had 13 in the first half alone.
“In the first half, we ran our offense well and our guards were giving me the ball where I could score — just dumping the ball off to me,” Withey said. “They made it pretty easy for me to score in the first half.”
In the second half, however, Withey didn’t score until the 6:15 mark, though he made three second-half blocks to protect a lead that was cut down to just two on a couple of occasions.
“I just knew that I didn’t want them to score and they just drove right at me,” he said. “I just blocked the shots and didn’t really think too much. I was just playing.”
Withey finished with four blocks in the game, to go along with 15 points and seven rebounds. In all, the Jayhawks overcame 16 turnovers to pull out the road win. It was their sixth straight game holding opponents under 60 points.
“We’ve been struggling on offense lately, but we’re a good defensive team,” Withey said. “We were last year and that got us to the Final Four. Defense wins, and at least we have that.”
It was the first ever meeting between West Virginia and Kansas on the basketball court as an announced crowd of 12,402 striped the Coliseum in gold and blue.
“It was a great atmosphere and the fans were really good,” Withey said. “They fit in perfect with the Big 12 and we’re definitely happy to have them in the league. It was pretty fun.”
Kansas improved to 19-1 on the year and overall 288-54 under head coach Bill Self.
“It is frustrating and I talked to the guys about it, we have to be better — there’s no question. We’re going to have to learn some lessons through losing or we’re going to have to mature and hopefully learn through escaping. So far we haven’t learned yet.” — Kansas coach Bill Self
“The atmosphere was good — the students were great,” Self said. “I don’t know if they get crowds like this every game, but I thought it was a good home court without question. It’s neat how they get all the students down there low on one side.”
Crowd aside, Self was less-than pleased with his team’s mistakes down the stretch that allowed the Mountaineers to climb back into the game.
“It is frustrating and I talked to the guys about it, we have to be better — there’s no question,” Self said. “We’re going to have to learn some lessons through losing or we’re going to have to mature and hopefully learn through escaping. So far we haven’t learned yet.”