MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia sent a message to the NCAA selection committee by rushing to 25-point lead and then hanging on to beat No. 8 Kansas 92-86 Saturday at the Coliseum.
The Mountaineers withstood a furious comeback by the Jayhawks, led by freshman guard Andrew Wiggins, who scored a career-high 41 points before fouling out.
Freshman center Devin Williams had his best game of the season as he recorded his eighth double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds for West Virginia. Williams received a great deal of help from guards Juwan Staten and Eron Harris, both of whom scored more than 20 points. Staten just missed a double-double with 24 points and nine assists while Harris, bouncing back from a difficult game at Oklahoma in which he scored only five points, scored 28 points.
Wiggins did it all for the Jayhawks, who played without starting center Joel Imbiid due to a back problem.
The Jayhawks (23-8, 14-4 Big 12) fought back from a 64-39 deficit with 16:43 left to get within five points, but fell short. They still won their 10th straight conference title.
The Mountaineers (17-14, 9-9) will need to repeat the effort a couple of times in the Big 12 Tournament if they are to get any NCAA Tournament consideration.
When the final buzzer went off, giving WVU its third victory of the season over a ranked team, the student section stormed the court.
The first half turned into a most unexpected show of power — not from Kansas, but from the Mountaineers.
Powered early by Williams, who seemed to be taking the faceoff with Wiggins quite personally, WVU led 50-38 at intermission.
Williams, whose season high was 20 points against Purdue, had 18 at the half and was still without a missed shot, hitting seven of seven from the field, many of them 15-foot jumpers. He also hit four of his five free throws and grabbed five rebounds.
Wiggins was living up to his billing, finishing with 17 points, five rebounds and an assist but did not have the support Williams enjoyed.
West Virginia’s Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Juwan Staten, a guard, was doing some amazing things as he scored 14 points to go with five assists.
One of his baskets came on a shot so improbable, with the ball floating a couple of feet above the rim before falling through, that the Coliseum public address announcer assumed the man who shot it could not possibly have made it and credited Brandon Watkins on an invisible tip in.
Guard Eron Harris, coming off what coach Bob Huggins called “the worst game of his career” as he scored only five points at Oklahoma, came out on fire, hitting his first three shots and finishing the half with 13 points, including three of four from 3-point range.
Harris also capped off the half with a pair of spectacular plays off WVU steals. On the first, he somehow spotted guard Terry Henderson trailing him down the court and made a behind-the-back pass to him for a score. The second came on a fast break moments later as he pulled up and hot a 3-pointer.
NOTES: Kansas 7-foot freshman C Joel Embiid sat out his second consecutive game with a back problem but is expected to be back for postseason play. He is averaging 11.2 points a game and 8.1 rebounds, and had a double-double in the first meeting with West Virginia … Mountaineers G Terry Henderson, their third leading scorer who had missed the previous four games with a flu-like illness during which he lost between 15 and 20 pounds, made his first appearance since Feb. 15. … Billy Hahn, a one-time head coach, who now is WVUs director of basketball operations, was hit with a technical foul from the bench in the second half. … WVU G Juwan Staten took 20 free throws in the game as he controlled the ball down the stretch while WVU hung on. … Kansas star freshman G Andrew Wiggins wound up taking 19 free throws.
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