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The Day After: Revenge against West Virginia

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Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) hoists a Big 12 championship t-shirt after the Jayhawks defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) hoists a Big 12 championship t-shirt after the Jayhawks defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said it best when trying to explain how his Mountaineers lost Tuesday night's game at Allen Fieldhouse, 76-69 in overtime to a Kansas team that did not lead one time in the entire second half.

Forearms on the table, shoulders slumped, head staring down, Huggins said simply, “There's just some things that happened that you can't explain.”

Several of the “things” Huggins was referencing were miscues by his team. Missed free throws in crucial moments, the full-court pass that went out of bounds late, an air-balled three-pointer in transition when the right play would've been to milk the clock and others. Huggins lamented all of those hiccups and more after watching his team cough up an 18-point lead to Kansas that helped the Jayhawks clinch Big 12 title No. 11 in a row outright.

But there was another part of Tuesday's game that no one in the West Virginia locker room wanted to talk about, and it's the one thing that has been consistent for this inconsistent Kansas team all season long — the Jayhawks benefited from playing in an incredible atmosphere full of fans who did their part to will the team to victory.

Generally speaking, I'm a believer that it's the players — and to a lesser degree the coaches — who decide the outcome of games and nothing else. But it's hard to argue with the fact that the noise, intensity and intimidation that bounced off the Allen Fieldhouse walls in those final frenzied minutes had to have at least some kind of impact on West Virginia letting its lead slip away. Huggins did not buy that either, saying, “I don't know what the building has to do with anything to be honest with you,” but whether he agreed with it really did not matter.

You could see it on the faces of the West Virginia players. The impact showed up in the plays they made and did not make down the stretch. And, as Huggins mentioned, that might be one of the only ways to explain some of those “things” that cost the Mountaineers, who played an incredible game and did so without two veteran starters.

West Virginia coach Bobby Huggins reacts to turnover near the end of regulation during the Jayhawks win against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

West Virginia coach Bobby Huggins reacts to turnover near the end of regulation during the Jayhawks win against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Quick takeaway

This is a weird team with a lot of holes, a couple of significant issues and less depth than anyone expected it would have when the season began. But confidence can be a funny thing, and the way the Jayhawks won the last two games — down-to-the-wire home wins over Texas and West Virginia — has to have this team feeling good about its chances to find a way to win against anybody. KU showed more toughness in closing out both of those games than it has at just about any point this season. More important than that, the Jayhawks won Tuesday's game without getting much from injured leading scorer Perry Ellis. KU has trailed at halftime in 12 games this season, including the past three. But the Jayhawks have found a way to win most of those, with toughness being the key ingredient in all three comebacks. KU is a much different team at home than it is anywhere else, but with the rest of the season — however long it goes — coming away from Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks will have to channel the fight and ferocious play that they put forth to win the past two games to help get them through the next couple of weeks. Luckily for the Jayhawks, those two games, what worked and what didn't and the confidence and pride that came from both results will be fresh in their minds.

Three reasons to smile

1 – For the second game in a row, KU coach Bill Self turned the Jayhawks' offense into the simplest possible style when he told his team to just drive it, just drive it. Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham, Kelly Oubre and even Jamari Traylor did just that and the Mountaineers struggled to stop it. That style, which led to 42 points in the paint (on 21 total field goals) and 43 free throw attempts, helped KU get easy points — and I say easy because they were close to the rim, not because they were wide-open, uncontested shots — and cut into the Mountaineers' lead both with high-percentage plays and with the clock sopped in crucial moments.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives around West Virginia forward Devin Williams (5) during the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives around West Virginia forward Devin Williams (5) during the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Mike Yoder

2 – I'm not sure KU would've won this game without Hunter Mickelson. His numbers were modest, though very solid and unexpected for him, but it was his energy, effort and fearless attitude early that helped keep KU in the game. With the rest of the team struggling with turnovers, missed jumpers and frustrated by West Virginia's tough, physical and intense defense, Mickelson picked up a couple of loose balls for buckets, grabbed a a couple of rebounds and even blocked a shot to help show the rest of the Jayhawks the way. He finished with 8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 steals in 13 minutes and just might have made a case for a little more playing time in the near future. He's still a step slow at times, but he's long, athletic and moves well. I can't help but think those traits for a handful of minutes will come in handy against at least one or two of KU's next few opponents, perhaps starting with Saturday at Oklahoma.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) knocks the ball loose to create a steal against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) knocks the ball loose to create a steal against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

3 – There was a significant mental edge gained by the Jayhawks on Tuesday night that could help this team big time in the near future. After Devonte' Graham hit 2 free throws to tie the game at 59 with 11.5 seconds to play, West Virginia had the ball and a chance to win. A couple of weeks ago, when KU was in the same position against this same team — needing a late stop for a shot at victory — Juwan Staten got to the rim and hit the game-winner. Staten was not in uniform on Tuesday night, so there's no telling what would've happened if he had been out there. But KU's defense came up with the stop in the final seconds this time, thanks to a big-time contest of a three-pointer by Frank Mason and a blocked shot by Landen Lucas on the rebound. Coming through in that situation not only helps build KU's confidence but also can essentially wipe out or at least make the failed first attempt a wash.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – There's no two ways about it: The Perry Ellis injury is a major concern for this team. KU coach Bill Self sounded encouraged that Ellis would be able to return in time for the Big 12 tournament next week, but will he be 100 percent? Even though KU is saying it's just a sprained knee, Ellis' return to the lineup, whenever it comes, does not necessarily mean he'll pick up where he left off when he injured the knee. The only hint of a silver lining here is that KU will have a couple of games under its belt without him to get used to not being able to count on the Wichita junior for everything the way they had in the previous three or four games prior to Tuesday night.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor, right, celebrates a late basket in overtime against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor, right, celebrates a late basket in overtime against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

2 – Because of their versatile collection of talented athletes, the Jayhawks can play a number of different styles. But it seems clear that the one style this team does not enjoy is the physical, in-your-face style that the Mountaineers hit them with on Tuesday night. That's not to say KU can't get physical, it just doesn't seem like it likes to play that way. Given that the Big 12 tournament figures to be a dogfight and the NCAA Tournament features physical, all-out intensity from start to finish, KU's going to have to find more comfort in playing that way if it hopes to make a run, and, again, the result of these past two games could and should go a long way in helping them get there.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) battles for a rebound during the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) battles for a rebound during the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

3 – Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene continue to struggle offensively. Selden, who shot just 2-for-7 and finished with 4 points on Tuesday night, has done enough away from the offensive end to make up for his shortcomings there throughout the season. But Greene's s struggles with his outside shot stretched into another game and have to be a concern. Greene is 0 for 11 from three-point range in the past three games and 2 for 19 in past six games. Even with that being the case, he still possesses that kind of shot that you think is going in every time if he gets an open look. He got a few of those on Tuesday and looked much less rushed and forced in putting up his shots. KU needs him to get going again, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time until he does.

One for the road

KU's crazy comeback victory over West Virginia on Tuesday:

• Clinched the Jayhawks’ 11th-consecutive Big 12 Conference regular-season title outright. Kansas now has a two-game lead in the conference race with just one game remaining.

• Made Kansas 24-6 overall, giving KU 24 victories for the 10th-straight season.

• Bumped KU's record to 13-4 in Big 12 play, marking the 10th-consecutive season that the Jayhawks recorded 13 league wins, beginning in 2005-06.

• Earned Kansas the No. 1 seed in the 2015 Big 12 Championship. KU will play in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 12, at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The Jayhawks will face the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed game to be played March 11. This is the seventh-consecutive year (beginning in 2009) that KU will enter the event as the No. 1 seed and the 12th time in the 19-year history of the Big 12.

• Extended Kansas’ winning streak in home finales to 33-straight seasons, which began in 1983-84.

• Pushed KU's edge in the Kansas-West Virginia series to 4-2 in favor of KU, including 3-0 inside Allen Fieldhouse.

• Marked the 24th-straight victory inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 15-0 record in the venue this season. Overall, the Jayhawks are 728-109 all-time inside their storied venue and 190-9 at home under Bill Self.

• Improved Self to 349-75 while at Kansas, 4-2 against West Virginia and 556-180 overall.

• Made KU 2,150-828 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks close out the regular season at 3 p.m. Saturday in Norman, Oklahoma, where they'll look to hold off the Sooners in the season finale. KU knocked off OU, 85-78 Jan. 19 at Allen Fieldhouse.

By the Numbers: Kansas beats West Virginia, 76-69, in overtime

By the Numbers: Kansas beats West Virginia, 76-69, in overtime

Comments

Phil Leister 7 years, 3 months ago

Last paragraph: hasn't KU already clinched the outright Big 12 title? :)

Matt Tait 7 years, 3 months ago

Yeah. My bad. Wrote that up in the final two minutes of last night's game when it looked like a loss was coming. Posted it on the immediate recap and forgot to change it with the crazy finish and then copied and pasted today.

Sorry folks. Still in awe of that wild finish. I'll fix it now!

Brandon Dey 7 years, 3 months ago

Same error in last paragraph from earlier story from Matt - "clinch the outright Big 12 title".

Cody Riedy 7 years, 3 months ago

I looked at Self's career coaching record and since the 97-98 season, his first at Tulsa, his teams have finished first in their conference every year except thrice. He finished first 2 out of his 3 years at Tulsa (and third once); he finished first 2 out of 3 years at Illinois (and second once); now at Kansas he is 11 out of 12 (with one second place finish).

In sum, in his last 18 years of coaching, Self's teams have finished 1st - 15 times 2nd - 2 times 3rd - 1 one time.

Daniel Kennamore 7 years, 3 months ago

Matt,

You should also note the win makes us 14-0 since 2006 in games as made 1 or zero three-pointers.

Matt Tait 7 years, 3 months ago

Hmmmm. Not sure about that… Here's what Gary had in his notes from last night.

• KU went 0-15 from three. KU’s goose-egg from beyond the arc snapped a streak of 29-straight games with a three-point basket dating back to an 0-of-7 effort against Eastern Kentucky on March 21, 2014.

• The Jayhawks had never taken more than nine three-point attempts without a make in a game. The previous worst was 0-of-9 against Baylor on Feb. 28, 2008.

• KU's zero in the three-point column signified the fifth time in the last 15 years that KU has been held without a three. The Jayhawks had no threes vs. Eastern Kentucky (3/21/14), Western Kentucky (3/22/13), Baylor (2/9/2008) and at Texas (2/28/2000). Kansas now holds a 4-1 record in games it has not made a three in the last 15 years.

• The last time Kansas didn't make a three in a Big 12 Conference game was against Baylor on Feb. 9, 2008.

• KU is 7-46 from three over its last four games.

David Robinett 7 years, 3 months ago

Matt,

THANK YOU for citing Mickelson.

In my opinion, he is more talented offensively than Lucas. Has better hands, and finishes.

Although Lucas did have a game saving block at end of regulation, Hunter is a better rim protector-- and what have we been missing this year? A RIM PROTECTOR.

I cannot figure out why the coaches do not see this. I think HCBS is sort of set in his ways and will not split minutes beyond his desired 7-8 guys, and decided early that Hunter was not as good as Cliff or even Landen. But I bet you anything his points and blocks per minute played exceed those two guys.

He showed last night that he could play against THE fastest team in the Big 12, and he was essentially perfect offensively. Add in his blocks, his hustle, and most of all his POISE when nothing else was going right, and we may have the answer right under our noses.

Especially given Cliff's absence, HMick could be the surprise of the decade in the NCAA tourney. Let's get him some work in the Big12 Tourney!!

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 3 months ago

Landen is a better rebounder and better on-ball low post defender and likely a better finisher in the post. Hunter is a better help defender, more agile, and has a better jump shot.

Most games we need more of Landen's skill set. Last night we needed Hunter's skill set.

Jack Jones 7 years, 3 months ago

Sorry ~ I'm going to take Coach Self's judgement over your, or any opinion 1,000 times out of 1,000.

Dale Rogers 7 years, 3 months ago

We talk about the advantage of playing home games in a venue like Allen Fieldhouse, Cameron Indoor Stadium, Rupp Arena, etc., but I wonder how much of that has to do with the difficulty of verbal communication between players and between coaches and players. Many teams don't deal with this issue much so perhaps they're not as prepared to communicate in that type of environment as those teams who often have that issue to deal with. Just wondering.

Arthur Ankeney 7 years, 3 months ago

My player takeaways are as follows (please note I turned on the game with KU down 16 and 3 minutes left in the first half, just in time to see Ellis go down).

Mason: He seemed a bit slow and showed flashes of his freshman year where he had trouble getting the ball on the rim against taller defenders. That being said he continues to be the beating heart of this Jayhawks team. He made a huge shot late in regulation while heavily contested. He had the coast to coast layup in overtime. And he knocked down free throws. I was very impressed with how he performed down the stretch.

Selden: Showed physical and mental toughness coming back into the game after his injury. You could see he was favoring the one side and he was slow on defense but I was impressed with his heart. After he got beat he exploded up from behind to get the block. That being said, even before the injury he struggled offensively. I think his jumper from 3 is likely to remain inconsistent. He has a good release and thats all we can ask for now. The area that is concerning me is his ability to finish at the rim. A guy with his slashing ability and athleticism needs to finish better. Often his shots are not heavily contested but he over exaggerates the pressure, double and triple pumping and then missing the layup. He goes up for a huge tomahawk when a simple floater would be much more effective. I would love for him to just repeatedly slash during practice against any (all) of our big men. They can get practice contesting slashers which they seem to struggle with and Selden can practice finishing. He continues to be an amazing leader, getting onto teammates when they have mistakes and showing tremendous effort defensively.

Oubre: More minutes PLEASE! Oubre adds so much to this team. He shows the best ability to finish at the rim and is a great rebounder from the 3 slot. His long body affects teams defensively and he draws fouls offensively. He had some foul trouble which took him out for big minutes in the second half of this one and I think the one he fouled out on was pretty ticky-tack. He seems our most consistent option at the 3 spot so hope to see him getting more minutes.

Arthur Ankeney 7 years, 3 months ago

Ellis: I didn't see any of his minutes so I cannot comment on his play. Always scary to watch a big contributer go down with an injury though. The news we are hearing is encouraging and I hope he has a fast recovery (both from flu-like illness and from knee injury). Here's what concerns me. The Ellis resurgence has been related to a new found aggression and athleticism. He is attacking the rim, going up high for the ball, and finishing strong at the rim. All those things have made his jumper and drive much more effective. If he has suffered a real knee injury, will he be hesitant to return to the soaring Ellis we have seen over the past 2-3 weeks and return to the passive guy of the earlier season when he disappears? I hope to see him come back as aggressive as after after some R&R.

Alexander: Do we have any news on his return or this investigation? He wasn't playing well before he went out but his size has been missed against the biggest team in the Big XII (Texas) and the most physical/top offensive rebounding team (WVU). I'm glad to see KU taking the necessary precautions that should help prevent reprecautions on the school/team for an individual's mistake (if it is in fact a mistake)

Graham: He struggled controlling the ball against the pressure with way more turnovers from the point guard spot than I would want in my floor leader. This being said, he knocked down those huge free throws at the end of regulation and earned his OT minutes performing well. This young man has a bright future for us at KU. I think he has the potential to be one of the best point guards in recent years, a position we have historicaly struggled with.

Arthur Ankeney 7 years, 3 months ago

Greene: I hope somebody can provide some insight to me about his playing time because I truly do not get it. He has a great shot. It is fast and fluid and confident. It is beautiful even when he misses. With this team struggling offensively, it seems somewhat logical to put in the purest shooter in the Big XII as a possible bright point in the offense that can provide spark. But here's the thing, he costs us SO much and is a constant deteriment to this team it seems. Even in that few game stretch when he was knocking down his shot, I struggled with accepting how many minutes he was getting. Now he's 3/19 in the past 6 games? He is slow defensively. If his guy doesn't score off the dribble he gets into the lane forcing somebody to come off their guy to help who ends up getting burned. Everytime there is a weakside rebound to Greene's side it falls right through his hand or he is outmuscled by somebody half his size. Greene is a big guy, he should be able to contribute on the boards but he does not. Then there is his attitude. Almost any shot you see of him on the bench he is leaning back, arms out on eitherside of him around chairs, usually looking up in the stands or at the score board completely inattentive to the game. Meanwhile everybody else on the bench is leaning forward watching the action and cheering on their teammates. In overtime, he was pouting that Graham was getting the minutes instead of himself. When the timeout is called, he is not involved in the huddle he is just sitting on the bench. Oubre, fouled out, is in the huddle but Greene is pouting on the bench. I cannot STAND to see this attitude and it has NO place on this team. I would love to see the +/- for us when Greene is in the game on the season. Does anybody know where these stats can be found? I've looked but can't find anything.

Svi: Played 3 minutes and didn't accumulate a stat. I felt he stayed in front of his guy defensively but the offense didn't flow while he was in the game. It got inside 10 seconds before the team got even to the 3 point line. I do not know if this was related to Svi, a group of players who don't get many minutes together, or the switch to the zone while he was in the game. I still think Svi shows great promise and does not hurt us like Greene does. Would have loved for him to be getting the minutes instead of Greene throughout the season but at this point, it's probably too late to integrate him into the rotation so I don't expect to see much of him (barring foul trouble and injuries).

Arthur Ankeney 7 years, 3 months ago

Traylor: From what I heard, it sounded like he had a rough beginning of the game but man did he come up huge down the stretch. Nine rebounds from this guy was a big deal. His ability to attack the rim and use his athleticism was huge. His drive and lay in gave KU a shot, cutting the lead at the end of regulation. And that OT throw down got AFH rocking even more than it already was. I think Traylor takes a lot of heat but he has come up huge for KU in multiple games.

Lucas: I really can't say enough about the 3 big man for KU that played. Lucas at times looks weak and he cannot provide much offensively, but his effort is there and the block at the end of regulation got us into OT. I think he struggles with a high pace game but he played 26 minutes and did not look overly fatigued. 2 block, a steal, and a big play when he drew the offensive foul on Williams(?) shows his worth defensively, just would like to see him do something offensively.

Michelson: Productive minutes and TREMENDOUS hustle and effort. Was running around, giving up his body jumping on the ground. He finished at the rim and at the free throw line (2-2, 4-4). He had 2 rebounds, 3 steals,a nd 2 blocks in THIRTEEN MINUTES!! How this does not earn him more minutes in a game without one big man and without two big men in the second half baffles me.

Robert Brock 7 years, 3 months ago

Some "revenge game": WVU came into our house and physically pounded us in spite of their being short-handed. The Hawks still allowed the Mountaineers to control the boards and to trap and turn us over on the press. I'm delighted that KU found a way to recover and play like men. But REVENGE? No. This was survival.

Dale Rogers 7 years, 3 months ago

Towards the end we were breaking the press so hopefully enough was learned to be of value in the remaining games.

Titus Canby 7 years, 3 months ago

Time for predictions. What do you guys think we'll do against OU, in the Big 12 tournament, and in the NCAA tournament?

Brian Conrad 7 years, 3 months ago

OU .. who cares... Big 12 win couple no big deal .. and lets cross our fingers on matchups.. elite eight seems where we should finish ... but tough second round matchup like VCU or San Diego State.. could be tricky .. sure feels like getting a #1 seed like Villanova / Gonzaga could side step into Final 4 ... or another door may open.. single these weekends down to beating 2 teams in few days.. never know...

Len Shaffer 7 years, 3 months ago

I agree with you, Brian, except I think it's more like Sweet 16 for this team than Elite 8. I just think KU has been too inconsistent on the road and at neutral sites to play the way they'll need to to get past the Sweet 16. I would love to have them prove me wrong.

Arthur Ankeney 7 years, 3 months ago

At least we have quite a bit of experience on one day's rest with the number of games we played on big Monday.

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