Juwan Staten had missed long jumpers on the last two West Virginia possessions, but when the Mountaineers truly needed a bucket — with Kansas up 61-60 with 8.3 seconds left and the ball under their own basket — Staten made the play to win the game.
He went the length of the court, splitting three Kansas defenders (while traveling?) to give West Virginia a 62-61 lead. Kansas very nearly had an answer, as Jamari Traylor threw a pass the length of the court to a streaking Perry Ellis. But Ellis went all Patrick Ewing, bricking the layup and giving West Virginia a much-needed win:
In defense of Ellis, the play that he had to make was incredibly tough. Sprinting full-speed without knowing where he was on the floor or exactly how much time was left on the clock, he had to make an over-the-shoulder catch and try to finish a layup at full-speed with two West Virginia defenders bearing down on him.
Should he have made it? Probably. But let’s not pretend that the play he made was easy.
Anyway, there are three major points that need to be made after this win for the Mountaineers:
- West Virginia badly needed this win, and it’s not because they are really in any kind of danger of missing the NCAA tournament. The five games left on their regular season schedule all come against NCAA tournament teams, and three of those are on the road, where the Mountaineers have struggled. If Staten doesn’t make that coast-to-coast layup, West Virginia is entering the final stretch having lost four of their last five, meaning that it was entirely possible that they could have lost nine of their last ten games of the season. This win likely ends any doubt about the tournament, but it also puts them in a much better place as they make a trip to Oklahoma State on Saturday.
- The rest of the Big 12 desperately needed this win as well. Kansas entered Monday holding a two-game lead over Iowa State and a three-game lead over everyone else in the Big 12 standings with three of their five remaining games at home — TCU, Texas and West Virginia — and road trips left to Kansas State and Oklahoma. If Kansas had won this game, they would have been as close to a lock as you can get to win at least a share of their 11th straight Big 12 title. That said, as it stands, it still seems very unlikely they have that streak snapped.
- The Cliff Alexander experiment has continued to be a roller coaster ride. Alexander played just six minutes on Monday night, which particularly surprising given the fact that Kansas gave up 22 offensive rebounds. It was those second chances points that allowed West Virginia to hang around, costing Kansas the win. Alexander had seemingly worked his way out of Bill Self’s doghouse and into the starting lineup.