5 stats that popped for Kansas in a Big 12 title game victory over West Virginia
Kansas City, Mo. — Just as West Virginia learned twice during the regular season against eventual Big 12 champion Kansas, the Jayhawks can be a difficult team to put away.
The Mountaineers didn’t establish a double-digit lead against KU like they did in their previous two meetings, but WVU once again couldn’t shut down a hot Kansas offense late in the second half of Saturday’s Big 12 title game.
The Jayhawks, who trailed by as many as eight in the second half, beat West Virginia, 81-70, to capture KU’s 15th conference tournament championship overall and 11th in the Big 12.
Here are five statistics that drove a victory that almost certainly cemented Kansas as a No. 1 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
De Sousa key to 1st-half stretch run
Silvio De Sousa — the same player coach Bill Self didn’t trust enough to put on the court the last time Kansas squared off with West Virginia — was the only Jayhawk in uniform who could score inside most of the first half.
As West Virginia spent more than 11 minutes before halftime with the lead, the Jayhawks weren’t finding many chances for quality looks at the basket unless they came on 3-pointers.
Enter suddenly-super sub De Sousa.
When the 6-foot-9 freshman from Angola checked in with 14:49 to go until halftime, KU had 2 points in the paint. It turned out De Sousa was the only Jayhawk who could get the job done, as he proceeded to score 10 of KU’s 12 points in the paint before the break.
De Sousa shot 5 for 5 in 13 first-half minutes with two tip-ins, two slam dunks and a layup. His teammates combined to make 4 of 10 attempts at the rim.
By the end of De Sousa’s perfect 8-for-8 shooting night he accounted for 16 of KU’s 24 points in the paint.
Red-hot second half
It seemed as if every shot KU put up at Sprint Center in the second half was going to end up dropping through the net.
The Jayhawks made their first three shot attempts out of halftime, including a 3-pointer each for Svi Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick. And even though the next few minutes featured a 1-for-4 stretch with two missed layups, the Kansas offense exploded soon after.
KU connected on 14 of its final 18 field-goal attempts en route to 72-percent shooting in the final 20 minutes. It was the fourth time this season the Jayhawks shot 70 percent or better in a half, and what a half in which to pull it off again, with the Big 12’s postseason championship up for grabs.
Senior leader Devonte’ Graham put on quite a show, hitting 6 of 7 shots in the decisive stretch. But his supporting cast was nearly as effective. De Sousa (3 of 3) didn’t miss, and both Newman and Vick shot 3 for 4.
As a result, KU poured in 48 second-half points and finished the victory with a 56.4 field-goal percentage. The Jayhawks are 13-0 this year when reaching the 50-percent mark.
Power of the 3-ball (again)
As important as their 3-pointers were against Kansas State the night before at the Big 12 tournament, the Jayhawks inflicted far more damage on WVU in the championship game from long distance.
KU’s four starting guards combined to bury 15 of 26 3-pointers, meaning the regular-season and postseason Big 12 champions scored 56% of their points from beyond the arc against West Virginia.
In three days at the league tournament, Kansas made 34 shots from long range — the most 3-pointers by a team that only played three games in Big 12 tournament history. (Oklahoma State made 35 over four games in 1999.)
KU improved to 15-2 this season when making at least 10 shots from 3-point range.
Although West Virginia hurt Kansas much of the night with its offensive rebounding, gathering 17 of its own misses for 14 second-chance points, the Jayhawks proved much more diligent on the glass when it mattered most.
When Sagaba Konate scored a second-chance bucket with 9:37 to play, it pushed the WVU lead to 63-56. However, the Jayhawks only allowed the Mountaineers to secure one more offensive rebound on 11 missed shots the rest of the way.
De Sousa (3 defensive boards in the final 9:00), Newman (3), Vick (2) and Mykhailiuk (1), cleaned the glass in crunch time, as West Virginia failed to score another second-chance point.
Graham smooth under pressure
Although, as usual, Graham played 40 minutes and owned far more ball-handling responsibilities than any of his teammates, the senior point guard only committed two turnovers against the always-assertive WVU defense, while also supplying a career-high 13 assists.
In 120 minutes this season versus the Mountaineers and two-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jevon Carter, Graham turned the ball over 7 times and assisted on 26 of his teammate’s baskets.
The Jayhawks’ senior point guard set a new Big 12 title game record with his 13 assists against WVU, as well.