Shotmakers make it a double-banner for top-ranked Jayhawks

Devin Williams scored a career-high 31 points in West Virginia’s 81-71 loss to Kansas.

 

KANSAS CITY — Devonte Graham made deep shots, and Devin Williams muscled in the close ones. Press Virginia made its inevitable run, but top-ranked Kansas made it a double-banner year in the Big 12.

Graham scored 27 as the Jayhawks answered No. 9 West Virginia’s challenges with timely 3-pointers to claim the conference tournament 81-71 on Saturday night.

Williams was a handful with 31 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late. The Mountaineers (26-8) simply didn’t give him enough help offensively.

“That’s the best he’s finished all year,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “But nobody (else) made shots today. There wasn’t one guy that we could run things for when they were trying to help so much on our inside guys.”

The Mountaineers hit their fewest 3s since the Dec. 8 loss to Virginia, making only 2-of-15.

Compare that to 9-of-15 for Kansas (30-4), which also got 21 points from Wayne Selden Jr., including a backbreaking 3 to beat the shot clock with 2:41 remaining.

“We’ve got a special group of guys that can shoot the ball, and we have two point guards that can get in the lane,” Selden said. “We have bigs that can pass the ball, and there were a lot of traps, so we found ourselves open shots.

“Nobody really shies away from the big shot on this team, anybody can knock it down, and tonight we showed it.”

The sophomore Graham made 5-of-6 shots from 3, hit all 10 of his free throws, and added four steals to earn MVP honors for a Kansas team that likely cemented the NCAA’s No. 1 overall seed.

Perry Ellis scored 17, including a press-breaking layup that gave Kansas its largest margin, 60-46.

The Mountaineers closed within 67-63 and missed a chance to make it a one-possession game when Tarik Phillip missed two free throws at the 4:04 mark.

Kansas followed with a 10-2 run to regain control.

Williams looked unstoppable in the first half, scoring 18 points on 7-of-7 shooting in just 12 minutes of action. He put up baby hooks, drew out the defense with a 17-foot baseline jumper and hung from the rim after being fouled on a stickback dunk.

Williams looked unstoppable in the first half, scoring 18 points on 7-of-7 shooting in just 12 minutes of action. He put up baby hooks, drew out the defense with a 17-foot baseline jumper and hung from the rim after being fouled on a stickback dunk.

“I just ain’t want to go out the wrong way,” said the junior forward. “I was trying to do everything I could to keep my team in it and get my guys going.”

West Virginia’s 34-33 lead at the break evaporated quickly when Graham’s 3 sparked a 10-2 spurt to open the second half.

The press forced 20 turnovers but West Virginia gave back the same number.

Tarik Phillip committed three turnovers and shot 1-of-7. Jevon Carter was 0-of-4 from 3, including an off-balanced airball forced up during a shot-clock violation. A night after hitting the semifinal game-winner against Oklahoma, Jaysean Paige had six points and four turnovers.

“I had an off tournament,” said Paige, who shot 11-of-28 in Kansas City after earning the Big 12’s sixth man of the year. “Offensively it just wasn’t going for me the week. I tried to find other ways to impact the game, but I’ve got to be more consistent.

“It hurts me because I knew I could’ve done more to help us win. I kind of let us down a little bit.”





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