MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Deuce McBride filled up the box score with 29 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists as No. 17 West Virginia pulled away from No. 23 Kansas, 91-79 Saturday at the Coliseum.
Taz Sherman added 25 points as the Mountaineers scored a season-high point total and avenged a December loss to the Jayhawks in Lawrence.
“We were locked in offensively. We were talking. We were communicating. So I feel like that was by far our best showing, for sure,” said WVU junior forward Derek Culver.
West Virginia built a double-digit lead just minutes into the contest. Culver scored WVU’s first six points. Jalen Bridges and McBride followed with 3-pointers to give WVU a 12-2 lead.
Kansas crept with four points at 25-21 after a Jalen Wilson triple. But the Mountaineers rebuilt a double-digit lead before halftime, 44-34. Culver and McBride combined for 25 first-half points. WVU went 7-for-11 from beyond the arc in the opening twenty minutes.
The Jayhawks needed just over two minutes to erase their halftime deficit. A 9-0 Kansas run evened the score at 47-47, forcing Bob Huggins to take a quick timeout.
“We challenged them,” Huggins said. “We have been there before and the results weren’t good. I think it was more them responding to the challenge than it was anything else.”
“A lot of yelling,” McBride said. “The expectations are high in a game like this and every possession counts. When you get a lead, you are doing everything you can to maintain that lead. Obviously we gave it back to them. But there was a lot of motivation in that huddle.”
West Virginia scored the next four points and extended their lead to 70-62 with 8:52 to play. The Mountaineers slowly pulled away down the stretch. A 3-pointer from Emmitt Matthews, Jr. with 3:30 left extended the Mountaineer cushion to 10 points and Kansas never threatened the rest of the way.
Culver scored 19 points and pulled down 9 rebounds while Matthews Jr. added 10 points. Matthews re-entered the starting lineup Saturday.
“I thought Emmitt was terrific,” Huggins said. “He passed the ball and guarded. He got key rebounds. I thought he was really good.”
McBride narrowly missed a triple-double. He connected on 9-of-15 shots from the floor and made all nine of his free throw attempts.
“It is all about preparation. When I come into a game more prepared and a little more motivated, I think every shot is going in,” McBride said. “You just go with the flow of the game. You feel hot and you keep shooting them.”
West Virginia assisted on 18 of their 32 baskets and they shot fifty percent from the floor (32-for-64). The Mountaineers also went 11-for-21 from 3-point range.
“We are sharing the ball and everyone is getting shots,” Sherman said. “That’s one thing we were really talking about was making sure we are fluid within our offense and we get good shots instead of OK shots. If somebody has a better shot than you, swing it to them. The ball might come back eventually.”
WVU forced 18 Kansas turnovers and cashed those in for 26 points.
“Our on-ball defense was batter. Certainly our help defense was better. We did a better job of helping the helper,” Huggins said. “That was our best defensive performance of the year and we still gave up 70-some.”
Marcus Garrett led the Jayhawks with 18 points. David McCormack added 17 for KU (12-7, 6-5 Big 12).
With the win, West Virginia moved into sole possession of second place in the Big 12, three games behind unbeaten Baylor.
West Virginia (13-5, 6-3 Big 12) continues their stretch of six games against AP top 25 teams when they visit No. 13 Texas Tech (13-5, 5-4 Big 12) Tuesday evening.
(Bob Huggins postgame Zoom conference)