A showdown between two top-ten Big 12 teams ended in disappointment for the West Virginia Mountaineers against Kansas.
After an extremely competitive 25 opening minutes of play, the Kansas Jayhawks dismantled the West Virginia Mountaineers in stunning fashion in Lawrence, claiming a 79-65 victory to gain a substantial edge in the race for the Big 12 title.
The 14-point deficit is not indicative of just how dominant the Jayhawks were – and how competitive this game was, for the most part. Courtesy of a sensational shooting night for Sean McNeil in the first half, the Mountaineers held a 36-35 advantage at halftime – but the Jayhawks, between offensive rebounds and three-point shooting, ran away with the tilt in the second half, leading by as much as 22.
For the Jayhawks, obviously, this win is huge. There has been no consensus on who the third-best team in college basketball is this season after Gonzaga and Baylor. Kansas is the third team to be slotted at No. 3 in the AP Poll this season after Villanova and Iowa – and thus far, with wins over Creighton, Texas Tech, and WVU, they have looked the part.
And, obviously, this win is extremely disappointing for a West Virginia squad that has been floated around as a potential Final Four caliber team. I will talk a bit more about that later because this game says a lot about where they are now – but the Mountaineers have failed to put away the two national championship contenders that they have faced thus far.
As for this game’s box score, the Mountaineers struggled to defend Kansas in numerous aspects – an oddity, considering West Virginia’s greatest strength has been its defense. The Jayhawks featured five double-digit scorers – all five in the starting lineup, which accounted for 75 of the team’s 79 points.
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going – particularly inside. Guard play kept West Virginia in this game – Sean McNeil was unconscious from beyond the arc in the first half, pouring in 24 points for the game, while Miles McBride added 19 points. Those marks are where the successes ended for West Virginia, however – and where the struggles began.