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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Big 12 champs: KU knocks off WVU for tourney title

Kansas head coach Bill Self puts his arm around guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the postgame interview with Holly Rowe of ESPN.

Kansas head coach Bill Self puts his arm around guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the postgame interview with Holly Rowe of ESPN.

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— Last week, when talking about rest and how it relates to the Big 12 tournament at Sprint Center, Kansas University men’s basketball coach Bill Self said if you get to the final, you might as well win it because you’re going to be worn out anyway after three games in a three days.

Self’s Jayhawks did just that Saturday night, knocking off No. 2 seed West Virginia, 81-71, to win their first Big 12 tourney title since 2013 and validate, once again, their regular season championship.

The top-seeded Jayhawks got a monster game from Devonte’ Graham (27 points) and strong showings from Wayne Selden (21) and Frank Mason (7 assists), who both decisively attacked the West Virginia pressure to help Kansas win the rubber match between the Big 12’s top two teams which split the regular season series.

KU’s defense, however, may have played an even bigger role than the Jayhawks’ offense in this one. Led by Graham, who finished with 4 steals, KU’s defense forced WVU (26-8) into 13 first-half turnovers and 20 for the game.

Kansas (30-4) also finished with 20 turnovers.

Despite trailing by as many as 14 at one point in the second half, the Mountaineers kept charging. And Tarik Phillip actually had a chance to cut the KU lead to a single possession with four minutes to play. But the junior guard missed two free throws and KU maintained a 67-63 lead. On the very next Kansas possession, Landen Lucas delivered a three-point play and pushed KU’s lead to 70-63 with just over three minutes to play.

With 2:38 remaining and WVU back within five, Selden beat the shot clock with a deep three-pointer from in front of the KU bench that all but sealed it.

The victory almost certainly guarantees that the Jayhawks will enter the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. And West Virginia’s run at the Big 12 championship likely was good enough to put the ninth-ranked Mountaineers on the 2-line.

KU enters the Big Dance on a 14-game winning streak.

Graham earned tournament MOP honors and joined Perry Ellis, Buddy Hield, Georges Niang and Devin Williams on the all-tourney team.

Here’s a quick look back at some of Saturday’s action:

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Self, Graham and Selden discuss KU's Big 12 postseason title

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, and Jayhawks Devonté Graham and Wayne Selden Jr., answer questions from the media following KU's Big 12 title game victory over West Virginia.

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• The game turned when: Kansas came out of the locker room to start the second half. Much like during Friday’s semifinal victory over Baylor, the Jayhawks looked like a determined team to start the second half, using runs of 7-0 and 8-0 to build a nine-point lead five minutes into the half.

• Offensive highlight: There was very little offensive skill involved in it; it was more like survival mode. But Landen Lucas’ huge offensive rebound of a missed jumper by Perry Ellis helped Kansas maintain a six-point cushion early in the first half. Lucas wrestled a WVU defender for the rebound, went right up with the ball after he snagged it and was fouled. He made the free throw to put Kansas up 43-37. A few minutes later, after another steal by Graham, KU had a three-on-one on the other end and Wayne Selden slipped a pass to Perry Ellis, who soared through the paint to finish a two-handed slam that put KU up 48-39.

• Defensive highlight: West Virginia may be known as the team that turns people over, but the Jayhawks did their fair share of that in the first half, as well. Turnover No. 10 might have been the most memorable. With the pace picking up and the Jayhawks jumping in trying to get deflections and steals, Devonte’ Graham poked the ball away from Jaysean Paige, managed to corral it after the knock-away and then slipped into a sweet spin move that created a transition bucket for Wayne Selden. The quick turn put Kansas up 19-13 with just over seven minutes to play in the first half. Later, with about a minute to play in the first half, Carlton Bragg blocked a dunk attempt by Elijah Macon by meeting Macon at the peak of his jump and pinning the ball in mid-air. Macon recovered and finished the layup and KU coach Bill Self screamed at the officials for a jump ball. Either way, the block by Bragg on a guy he gives up 20 pounds to, was definitely a memorable moment from a great tournament for the KU freshman.

• Key stat: Three-point shooting. A night after WVU was red hot from three-point range, the Mountaineers, who are not known as strong outside shooters, came back down to Earth and hit just 2 of 15 from downtown. KU, meanwhile, hit 9 of 15, for 60 percent and 27 points.

• Up next: The Jayhawks head back to Lawrence to get ready to find out their NCAA Tournament fate on Selection Sunday. The team will gather together to eat and watch the selection show, which is slated for two hours this season and will begin at 4:30 p.m. on CBS.

— See what people were saying about the Big 12 title game during KUsports.com’s live coverage


More news and notes from KU’s Big 12 postseason crown





By the Numbers: Kansas 81, West Virginia 71

By the Numbers: Kansas 81, West Virginia 71

Comments

Steve Macy 3 years, 8 months ago

Awesome, great game by the baby faced assassin. RCJH

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 8 months ago

baby faced assassin! i like that. he keeps bringing an A+ performance each game. i think he is the most improved player in this team.

Joe Ross 3 years, 8 months ago

As I watched the game, it dawned on me that playing West Virginia was probably the better preparation for the tournament (versus playing Oklahoma). There is no better simulation for game-time pressure than facing a team that is as active, as defense-oriented, and as physical as the Mountaineers. And the REALLY GOOD NEWS is that Wayne Selden is showing up!

If Kansas plays like this they are going to be really hard to beat. They've done a lot to address my concerns as a fan, and I have to say Im pleased with the direction they are going. Ball security remains an issue, but then again we are not likely to face another team like WV in the tournament.

Let's not feel so good about ourselves until we get the same result in April.

Congratulations to the Jayhawks. Playing with a lot of heart lately...

Greg Ledom 3 years, 8 months ago

Actually Joe, I think Team Kansas should feel real damn good about themselves. Regular season champs, post season champs and who knows what single elimination March Madness will bring. But whatever it brings, it won't change my feelings about what this team accomplished. If the NCAA tourney is all you want to hang your hat on at the end of the day, prepare yourself to be disappointed (in general). All that said, I can't wait to watch this team in the coming weeks and I do think it will be weeks. Time will tell. Rock Chalk!

Joe Ross 3 years, 8 months ago

It's an unfortunate reality that unless you win the tournament your season becomes an historical footnote on the national scale. True, locally we may have the benefit of reveling in a gold-medal winning, conference streak-extending season. But when you have the pieces in place capable of winning it all and garnering the prestige that comes with a national title, you dont satisfy yourself sitting on lesser laurels (national title > conference title). Yet our accomplishments thus far DO serve a purpose: inasmuch as they breed confidence for the Tournament, I say use those successes as fuel to inform yourself of what you're capable of if you work hard. That's exactly how they should be used. But you can wear your Korea bling around your neck while you sport your regular season championship t-shirt with the conference tourney title hat cocked sideways and youll discover that style points dont count for even half a win for March Madness. The key is not to be satisfied with what's been done when you have business in front of you.

"I'ma ball 'til I fall, 'til you haters come to get me. Do one for me, drive the Chevy like a Bentley. I gotta go to WORK!"

Dirk Medema 3 years, 8 months ago

"Team Kansas should feel real damn good about themselves." Yes, though I'm not exactly sure who Team Kansas is. Unfortunately, there are plenty of Jayhawk fans that have been wailing for a good part of the year (or 2) about the under achieving BB team. There were some who were calling for Coach Self's head because they hadn't made it to the 2nd weekend - tho I don't recall Joe being one of them. He's always been more measured than that.

It's not that the NCAA tourney is there is to hang your hat on, but it very definitely is that the season isn't over yet, anymore than it was following WVU, OSU, or ISU version 1.0.

As for the KU BB team, my guess is they'll feel good about themselves until about 6 pm tonight. By then, they'll know who the 16/17 seeds are and will be back to work.

Michael Lorraine 3 years, 8 months ago

Of course Wayne drains 3 treys after I state he should drive the lane more and stop trying to force the 3.

Glad to eat my words.

Mike Tetrick 3 years, 8 months ago

Great win!! Now just need to stay focus on the next game. Survive and advance...

Mike Tetrick 3 years, 8 months ago

Great win!! Now just need to stay focused on the next game. Survive and advance...

3 years, 8 months ago

Another 'ship' safely in the harbour, room for just one more! RCJH

Dirk Medema 3 years, 8 months ago

Two?

I think they give one for regionals as well.

Mallory Briggans 3 years, 8 months ago

Remember the talk about Self going to Stillwater a couple years ago.And with those who chanted Fire Bill Self earlier this season ,,,,,,well the stars have aligned and Coach Self can move back to Oklahoma when T. BOONE gives Coach Self a boatload of money....................................................................Oh wow ....I just woke up from a bad dream!!!!! Good luck Cowboys I think we will keep our coach around a little longer......

ROCK CHALK

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