MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Having seen the last-second play work for Joe Alexander and Da’Sean Butler in previous lifetimes, coach Bob Huggins brought out old faithful once again.
This time Juwan Staten made it a winner.
West Virginia’s point guard caught an inbounds pass with 8.3 seconds left and tore downcourt for the basket that staggered No. 8 Kansas 62-61 and lathered the Coliseum.
From a snowstorm outside to a court-storming inside. And in the middle of the Mountaineer mob, there was Staten, aka Mr. Last Resort.
The play’s execution looked simple enough, though many elements contributed.
“I’m thinking how do we get the ball to the guy we want to have the ball? I wanted Wannie coming with his shoulders facing toward our basket. How do we get him on a run at the goal?,” Huggins said. “And how do I hold their bigs from being able to block the shot, because we were going to get it at the rim.
“Who’s going to pass it (inbounds)? Who’s going to set the screen? There’s a lot to think about.”
To reconstruct the supporting players, Gary Browne made the pass and Chase Conner set the backcourt screen that cleared Staten for the catch. Near the center stripe came another screen from Jevon Carter, which afforded Staten some daylight from Kansas guard Frank Mason.
As Staten spun away from Mason and into the lane, he expected Kansas defenders to collapse, but they hesitated. On the cross-court wing Wayne Selden shadowed Conner (who made three 3s at Iowa State). Up top Kelly Oubre wasn’t leaving Carter (who buried two 3s moments earlier). Most curiously, in the near corner Perry Ellis stuck with Jonathan Holton (who was 0-of-7 since making his last 3 … on Jan. 17).
“Huggs told me if Jon’s man came to help,I should lob it to Jon for a dunk,” Staten said. “Then I was thinking I would have Chase on the right wing, but as soon as spun I didn’t see anything but the rim.”
Staten made the left-handed layup—and made Huggins look wise for not fouling on the previous Kansas possession, even as the game clock ticked south of 10 seconds.
With Mason, a 75-percent foul shooter, dribbling out front for most of the possession, West Virginia relied on its recently porous halfcourt defense to keep it a one-point game. When Staten forced Mason into missing a difficult 5-foot runner, Nate Adrian got two paws on the rebound before Ellis knocked it out of bounds.
“We had to get a stop,” Huggins said, “and we still had time.”
Time enough for Staten to make a desperation play look flawless.