MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It seems like something that would be addressed in one of Aesop’s Fables – two people making the exact same decision, but only one of them being correct.
Kansas coach Bill Self felt he was in that predicament following the No. 7 Jayhawks’ 65-64 loss to West Virginia.
“Me not calling a timeout was a bad, bad move by me,” Self said. “Bob [Huggins] not calling a timeout was, obviously, brilliant.”
On the Mountaineers final possession, Huggins elected to let things play out rather than draw up a play. The result was Jermaine Haley’s drive to the hoop for the go-ahead bucket with 7 seconds remaining.
“They played to their strengths,” Self said. “Haley drove the ball downhill, went to the slot where he could go to his right hand.”
Self decided to let his Jayhawks do the same thing in response. But after a missed Legerald Vick 3 and Dedric Lawson putback before the buzzer, he regretted not setting something up after Kansas crossed midcourt.
“We had no chance on that last possession,” Self said. “That’s obviously my fault. I should’ve called timeout. I just thought we’d drive it.
“What are you going to get better than an open, broken floor when you’re in the double-bonus than to drive it? You’re not going to get anything better than that. I still should’ve [called a timeout].”
Huggins isn’t so sure that Self managed the situation incorrectly. He felt West Virginia was just up to the task defensively.
“A lot of it depends on personnel, and they have a lot of guys who can bounce it. We don’t have guys who can bounce it. With his team, I’m sure he did the right thing,” Huggins said. “I think we really did a good job defensively. That’s the best on-the-ball defense we’ve played all year.”
The Mountaineers also thwarted the Jayhawks with off-ball defense in the final minute.
Kansas had a gift-wrapped opportunity to put things away when Marcus Garrett picked off an ill-advised Derek Culver pass after a Culver defensive rebound with 44 seconds left. With his team looking to extend its 64-63 lead, Self immediately called a timeout.
But the Jayhawks couldn’t get the look they wanted out of the timeout because of Beetle Bolden’s pestering defense.
Bill Self praises Beetle Bolden’s defense on possession following KU’s steal of Culver outlet pass. Jayhawks had chance do seal things there. pic.twitter.com/PI8DANRoRW
— Alex Hickey (@bigahickey) January 19, 2019
“The play was supposed to start with Devon [Dotson] touching it. But he never touched it,” Self said. “[Bolden] basically said ‘You ain’t going to get it.’ Therefore we ended up running a bad possession and not getting a chance to score. That was a really good play by Beetle.”
The Jayhawks settled for a rushed Vick 3-point attempt that was off the mark, opening the door for Haley’s heroics.
Kansas’ failed final minute flashed back to a first half filled with offensive struggles. The Jayhawks had 13 turnovers, went 0-for-6 from 3-point range and felt fortunate to get into the locker room tied at 23.
Kansas cleaned things up after halftime, but still finished with 18 turnovers compared to only six assists. The turnovers were a season-high for Kansas and the assists a season-low.
“That first half set basketball back decades,” Self said. “They played well in the second half, and we played quite a bit better also.”
Kansas power forward Dedric Lawson said West Virginia’s physicality proved to be a challenge for the Jayhawks to overcome – and that it was exacerbated by an officiating crew who let the players play. West Virginia was whistled for 14 fouls, its lowest total since being called for the same number against Lehigh on Dec. 30.
“It was physical. There was fouling. It’s West Virginia,” Lawson said. “I watched it last year. I can tell you they foul. But that’s just the style of play. You can’t call every foul. You’ve got to play through it. You’ve got to be a man.”