Kansas trailed by 18 points in the second half and didn’t make a 3-pointer on Tuesday, but the Jayhawks rallied for a 76-69 overtime win over No. 20 West Virginia for a home Big 12 win. The No. 9 Jayhawks winning the outright Big 12 regular-season title is a nice accomplishment for Bill Self’s team, but the potential loss of junior forward Perry Ellis is the real story in this one.
The 6-foot-8 junior injured his knee in the first half when it was rolled on during a play under the basket. Already without freshman forward Cliff Alexander due to eligibility concerns, Kansas rallied in the second half without Ellis or Alexander and got a strong performance from Jamari Traylor, who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Point guard Frank Mason III also added 19 points and seven rebounds for the Jayhawks while Kelly Oubre Jr. added 12 points and Devonte Graham added 10 points, including two clutch game-tying free throws with under 30 seconds left to help force overtime.
Playing without senior guard Juwan Staten, West Virginia had 23 points from guard Daxter Miles Jr., but couldn’t withstand the pressure of the Kansas defense without its senior point guard in the second half. The Mountaineers and their trapping style of defense forced 16 Jayhawk turnovers, but the sloppy offense of West Virginia accounted for 22 turnovers and kept a cold-shooting Kansas team in the game despite the double-digit deficit.
This win and the regular-season accomplishment will feel great for Kansas in the short term, but with the uncertain status of both Alexander and Ellis going forward, it’s hard to be optimistic in Lawrence as the postseason nears.
If you’re looking for positives in this one, though, how about the comeback from the Jayhawks? Traylor played perhaps his best basketball of the season with the spotlight on him and Ellis going down. Reserve big man Hunter Mickelson also gave some good minutes off the bench, going for eight points, two rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Kansas still needs Ellis (and Alexander) in the lineup to have any real chance at a deep run in March, but it has to be comforting knowing that Traylor and Mickelson played well against a ranked conference opponent when backed against the wall.