The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

March 11, 2014

WVU men’s quality of performance was most impressive in upset win

MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University men’s basketball team’s thrill-filled 92-86 upset of nationally No. 8-ranked Kansas here last Saturday has to be one of the school’s all-time greatest triumphs.

The setting for that 2013-14 regular-season finale couldn’t have been more fitting. A sellout crowd of 14,038 fans — largest of the year — provided a louder, peak-pitch vocal atmosphere for Senior Day against the Big 12 Conference’s No. 1 team.

And when the Mountaineer mascot fired the loud, final, game-ending shot with his musket, at least a couple hundred students and other fans stormed the court to mob the players in celebration.

Everyone appeared to be joyfully jumping up and down and WVU teammates hugging each other. Eventually, the members of both squads exchanged the usual postgame hand shakes.

It was a sight no one in Mountaineer Nation will forget any time soon.

However, what impressed me the most about this significant, gigantic win against the Jayhawks (23-8, 14-4 Big 12) was West Virginia’s quality of performance.

The Mountaineers (17-14, 9-9 Big 12) shot a red-hot 63.0 percent in building a 50-36 halftime lead and 52.9 percent (27 of 51) for the game.

They also shot 56.3 percent from 3-point range (9 of 16) and converted on 29 of 40 free throws for 72.5 percent accuracy.

You really don’t see such high, balanced 50 percent or better stats every day or night.

Defensively, WVU did pretty well, too, except during Kansas’ second-half rally which eventually chopped its 25-point deficit to five — and that was scary.

The Jayhawks shot only 45 percent from the field for the game (28 of 62), made 8 of 23 attempts from 3-point range (34.8 percent) and just 22 of 32 from the foul line (68.8 percent).

West Virginia also managed to outrebound the visitors by a 37-31 margin.

Another major factor in beating powerful Kansas was that three standouts scored more than 20 points each against a Big 12 team in a game for the first time this year.

Sophomore guard Eron Harris tallied 28 points, junior guard Juwan Staten 24 and freshman forward Devin Williams 22 points as well as 13 rebounds.

Staten, who also dished out a game-high nine assists, was named on Sunday to the coaches’ All-Big 12 first team. He’s also on the league’s All-Defensive first team.

Harris, who received Big 12 honorable mention in the voting, called the conquest of Kansas “a dream come true.” He told reporters, “That’s something I always wanted to be a part of, but never thought I would be …”

WVU head coach Bob Huggins obviously was very happy about his team’s achievement and the outstanding way it performed in beating Kansas for the first time.

That also made Huggins $25,000 richer, according to terms of his contract as an incentive.

The triumph over Kansas has to be the Mountaineers’ biggest in the last three years of the men’s basketball program. It likely will remain with Huggins among the most cherished in his entire coaching career as one of the nation’s most winningest mentors.

West Virginia now is preparing for the Big 12 men’s tournament. The sixth-seeded Mountaineers meet No. 3-seeded Texas (22-9, 11-7 Big 12) at 9:30 p.m. Thursday in Kansas City, Mo.

That game will be televised by the Big 12 Network.

Texas swept both regular-season games, 80-69 on Jan. 13 in Morgantown and 88-71 on Feb. 15 in the rematch in Austin, Texas.

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