Kansas defeats West Virginia, 79-65

  • 8 p.m., Dec. 22, 2020
  • Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, KS

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

No. 3 Kansas surges past No. 7 West Virginia behind 16 3-pointers

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) roars after hitting a three pointer against West Virginia during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) roars after hitting a three pointer against West Virginia during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Another battle with West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse ended with the third-ranked Jayhawks running away from the visitors, 79-65, to move to 8-1 on the season, 2-0 in Big 12 play and 9-0 all-time at home against the Mountaineers.

On a night when even a seven-point lead didn’t seem like much of a cushion most of the way, the Jayhawks surged ahead by outdoing the Mountaineers on the glass and out-shooting Bob Huggins’ team from behind the 3-point line.

The Jayhawks set a school record for 3-point attempts in a conference game, with 37, and knocked in 16 of them, one shy of tying the record for makes from long range in a conference game.

“We were open,” somewhat-surprised sophomore guard Christian Braun said after dropping 22 points to lead the Jayhawks. “I know you all saw it. We were letting it fly, me Jalen and O, for sure.”

The free-flowing, let-it-rip performance was exactly what Kansas coach Bill Self was looking for from this team. Earlier this week, Self said he felt his team needed to shoot roughly 35-37% of its shots in each game from 3-point range.

On Tuesday, the Jayhawks’ 37 3-point attempts represented 59% of their shots. More importantly, they made 43% of them and the shots came from the right places.

“I actually think Ochai (Agbaji) and Christian and Jalen (Wilson) need to shoot it whenever they’re open,” Self said earlier this week.

The trio did just that on Tuesday night, combining to make 13 of 32 attempts from 3-point range to offset a first-half performance by WVU junior Sean McNeil that looked like it might be the story of the night from long distance.

Braun (22 points) made six of 12, Wilson (17) hit four of 10 and Agbaji (11 points and 10 rebounds) made three of 10. Braun and Wilson tied their career-highs for 3-point makes in a game.

“It just worked out that way,” Braun said noting that West Virginia’s zone defense and willingness to lay off of shooters, along with KU’s ball movement, helped KU get so many open looks. “Going into it, we didn't think they would they would let us catch, you know that's how they normally guard; they’re really aggressive, really tough on the perimeter. So we actually didn't think they were gonna let us get shots up.”

McNeil made his first seven shots on Tuesday night — six of them from 3-point range — and had 11 points by the 12-minute mark, 20 by halftime and finished with 24 for the game.

The WVU junior who had made just 12 3-pointers all season entering Tuesday night, had 20 points on the break on a 6-for-6 clip from 3-point range. The six makes from 3-point range in the first half set a new record against the Jayhawks. And his sixth came at the halftime buzzer, as he threw up a desperation shot from around 30 feet that banged off the backboard before falling through.

That shot gave the Mountaineers a 36-35 halftime lead, their first since 2-0 on the game’s first possession.

McNeil’s first miss came at the 13:54 mark of the second half, when he clanged a 3-pointer off the back iron with WVU trailing by five.

His first miss signaled go time for the KU shooters.

Three of Wilson’s four 3-pointers came during an 11-0 second-half run that turned a 49-47 KU lead into a 60-47 run-away.

The run grew to 17-4 after Braun got hot and reminded his teammate that he, too, could let it fly from anywhere on the floor.

Braun’s sixth 3-pointer of the night, which put the Jayhawks ahead 66-51 with 8:46 to play, came from at least 25 feet and sent the building into a momentary frenzy.

“You guys have seen me and Jalen play,” Braun said. “If they’re not guarding us, we’re going to let it go.”

Although the 59% share was a little higher than he expected or would like, Self said his trust in his shooters has grown as the season has progressed.

“We've got good shooters,” he said. “And we've got shooters that can get hot and become great shooters. Everybody was aggressive, but nobody was thirsty.”

One of the big storylines heading into this one was whether KU junior David McCormack would be able to match up with West Virginia big men Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe, who entered the game leading the Big 12 in offensive rebounds.

McCormack showed early on that he was up for the challenge.

The Jayhawks went to McCormack in the post on their first two possessions. After scoring on the first trip, he missed a short hook on the second but battled for the loose ball under the basket after the miss to save the possession for Kansas.

McCormack scored his second bucket on the Jayhawks’ fifth possession and that seemed to loosen up everything for the Kansas offense.

“Dave was great today,” Braun said. “He played great defense down low. They're really big, so it's hard to keep them off the boards and Dave did a really good job of getting his man out of there. And he scored down low today. Dave was great.”

Added Self: “One thing about Dave that (made it) easier for him tonight, was that was the first time in a long time he's played against a big.”

In addition to forcing the Mountaineers to focus on guarding the paint, McCormack’s strong start injected a little swagger into the Jayhawks. Never was that more clear than when Jalen Wilson dropped a behind-the-back pass on the wing to Christian Braun, who made sure the pass became an assist by burying a 25-foot 3-pointer to put Kansas up 13-4.

The pass drew a “woo” and Braun’s triple an eruption from the 2,500 fans who watched this one.

No stranger to trying to calm down crowds seven times as large in the same building, West Virginia (7-2 overall, 1-1 Big 12) promptly called timeout and then quickly got back into the game, where they stayed until that knockout run by Kansas midway through the second half.

McCormack’s confidence spilled over to his defense, where he registered his entry for a KU block of the year on a Derek Culver shot late in the first half.

After Culver made his move on the left side of the lane, McCormack left his man to help and swatted the four-footer into the Kansas bench, where KU assistant Jerrance Howard calmly caught the ball and returned it to the official.

McCormack finished the first half with six points, five rebounds, two assists and a block in just over 14 minutes. For the game, he finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds in 32 minutes.

Kansas is now off for the next 10 days and will return to action on Jan. 2, when they welcome No. 10 Texas to Allen Fieldhouse for another top-10 Big 12 showdown.

"I'm happy with our guys," Self said. "It's a great way to go into Christmas and, of course, it doesn't mean anything now, but certainly it puts us in a position to feel good about ourselves and have some momentum. ... Our team tonight wasn't perfect by any stretch, but we did a lot of things well."


Barry Weiss 1 year, 9 months ago

Great game, balanced scoring. Went much better than I thought. I figured our lack of height would catch up to us by now. When you are hot at the 3 ball game, it equalizes alot of deficiencies.

Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 9 months ago

When we stop weaving, it opens up for opportunity to score. We become more productive. Braun looked solid. He did not look confused or busy finding someone to pass the ball, instead he'll just find a space to launch 3s. Same with Ochai, JDub. Kudos to coach BS for using their strengths. I'm so glad our offense tonight was right on the money. ATO automatically improves with less weaving. Unbelievable!

Defense looked very good, can't say much about McNeil's raining 3s.

David looked good, but still committed moving screen. Plenty of rooms for improvement. He missed bunny putback, his shot was blocked by shorter McBride, he kicked the ball out instead of passing to JDub under the basket. But he definitely looked like the best big on the floor tonight. Nice rebounding effort! Keep it up, Dave!!!

RocK ChalK!!!

Joe Black 1 year, 9 months ago

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the weave against man-to-man defense. WV was playing zone so weave not needed, just ball reversal. But then again since you know more about basketball than Bill Self or any of his assistant coaches, I'm sure you already knew that.

Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 9 months ago

Oh, sorry if my words disappoint you, Joe. But if you watch, just the first 3 minutes of the 1st. We already scored 10pts or more. WV didn't play zone. We made 2-3 threes; without weaving. I'm passionate about KU bball. And I love Sorry to disappoint you again. Merry Christmas Joe!

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 9 months ago

Can we petition ESPN to remove Vitale and Walton from disgracing the game of college basketball from pretending to call games, at least no more Kansas games?

Benjamin Shear 1 year, 9 months ago

The only saving grace is that Vitale is raising a ton of money for kids with cancer. But every time I see he is calling one of our games, I die a little inside.

Jesse Johnson 1 year, 9 months ago

Vitale just needs to retire. He obviously doesn't research the teams as much as the other analysts, and therefore makes really uneducated comments throughout the game. Bill Walton is on a whole other plane of obnoxiousness. I absolutely cannot stand him. He doesn't even talk about the game at hand for 75% of the time, and when he does, his analysis is just awful (less informed than Vitale).

Dane Pratt 1 year, 9 months ago

If only there was a way to listen to the play by play announcer and turn off the analyst.

Vitale, who must know something about college basketball since he was a head coach long ago is really little more than a cheerleader but deserves credit for his charity work.

Walton attempts to turn each game he covers into the Bill Walton Show. The game is entertaining enough by itself and doesn't need either of these clowns.

Benjamin Shear 1 year, 9 months ago

The only thing Vitale brings is enthusiasm and nostalgia. And let's be honest, an enthusiastic 81 one year old who spends all his breath pining for the old days isn't much fun to listen to.

Brett McCabe 1 year, 9 months ago

Couldn’t watch the game: where was Tyson?

Mallory Briggans 1 year, 9 months ago

TGF saved us against NDSU which i felt would earn him more playing time ..but thats not the case. Every year Self says he wants to cut the minutes of the starters but that never happens. If Self doesnt trust you he wont play you.Fresh legs come March will be good

Dane Pratt 1 year, 9 months ago

3 minutes to go, off of a timeout, up by 20 and the starters finish the game.

Joe Black 1 year, 9 months ago

He played plenty of others in the game and they are going into a 10 day break so no need to rest starters

Benjamin Shear 1 year, 9 months ago

Obiter Dictum:

*McCormack has a hitch in his giddy-up. I've never seen a big do as many pumps as him before he goes up with the ball. It's like his arms stutter. The same is true with his running. He runs like a rusty robot. But, he finally played within himself. KU was +19 when he was on the floor that game! He may not be the player we thought, but I think HCBS is finding the right fit.

*If we make 3s like that, we can beat any team in the country.

*HCBH is a likeable figure, he seems like your old uncle that, though a bit dirty and maybe an alcoholic, is just fun to be around.

*It's funny to watch the coach's fidget with their masks the entire game. Huggins for along stretch just let it ride down below his nose, chin diaper style. Why are the coach's wearing masks again?

*Did the players finally shake after the game? I saw the coach's talk. I hope the players did and that it continues. It seems ridiculous that players can touch the same ball, ect. but not shake hands after the game.

*KU shot zero FTs in the first half and 10 in the second (made 7 of them). In the second half, KU actually shot better from 3FG (47%) than from inside the arc (42%). If teams play better perimeter D it should open up opportunities for McCormack.

*I'm loving how this team just finds a way to win. They haven't won in the same manner all season, every game it's a different formula. These guys are winners and are tough.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 9 months ago

What happened to West Virginia's press defense.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 9 months ago

Random Thoughts: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly:

1] THE GOOD - KU won, shot the heck out of the threes, held their own rebound-wise against a bigger opponent, crowd sounded three times louder than the actual number.

2] THE BAD - Big Mac trying to defense a cutting guard on a switch, Chip Hilton hitting seven straight threes against our defense, the refs desiring extra face time by calling about 50 charging fouls...on everyone.

3] THE UGLY - Huggy Bear's fashion statement [of course, with that body build, a Ralph Lauren custom-fitted tuxedo would still look awful], having Dick Vitale do the game, Allen not filled to the brim with Jayhawks, did I mention Dick Vitale?

Jim Baker 1 year, 9 months ago

Why no mention of Garrett going 3 for 3 from 3-pt land? Those buckets were big in keeping us in the game, too!

Bryce Landon 1 year, 9 months ago

Thanks, Jayhawks, for the early Christmas present!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.