MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Sophomore Esa Ahmad broke out of his scoring slump and scored a career-high 27 points as No.18 West Virginia University defeated No.2 Kansas 85-69 on Tuesday night at the Coliseum in front of a raucous sellout crowd.
“I think he rededicated himself to the game, really after the Kansas State game,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “He wasn’t really good at Kansas State. He wasn’t very good at the Oklahoma game. He got in the gym. I know you guys get tired of me saying that but again he got in the gym. He was in the gym last night at 9 o’clock after being in there early before practice and late after practice.”
The Mountaineers (16-4, 5-3 Big 12) overpowered the Jayhawks (18-2, 7-1) for the fourth straight time in Morgantown and snapped the Kansas’ 18-game winning streak.
Nathan Adrian tallied 11 points. Daxter Miles Jr. and Tarik Phillip both added 10.
Josh Jackson led the Jayhawks with 22 points. Devonte’ Graham recorded 17 points and Frank Mason III had 15.
The Mountaineers forced 13 turnovers and had nine steals while excelling in their half court defense.
“Well, to be quite candid, I don’t think we played exceptionally well here but I think that West Virginia has a good team,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. ” I think if you were going to look at it over time, I think when they’re turned up, which they were tonight, I think they’re certainly one of the best teams in the country.”
WVU only turned the ball over eight times.
“We turned it over 23 times in Manhattan (Kansas),” Huggins said. “That’s 15 less possessions than you get when you turn it over eight times. That’s a lot of possessions.”
The Mountaineers blew a double-digit lead after halftime for the third straight game. Svi Mykhailiuk’s 3-pointer put the Jayhawks ahead 59-58 halfway through the second half.
Lamont West drained a 3-pointer to give WVU a 64-59 lead with 7:56 left but the freshman then turned around and made a huge defensive play, stealing the ball from Graham.
Ahmad started and finished a 12-1 run with baskets to put the Mountaineers in front 70-61 with 4:55 left.
After Mason turned the ball over, a lay-in from Miles to Sagaba Konate, who finished with a monstrous dunk to give WVU a 74-63 advantage with 3:17 remaining.
Miles’ 3-pointer from the corner put the Mountaineers ahead 78-66 with 1:57 remaining and all but put the game away.
WVU shot 48.3 percent from the field and made 8-of-20 from 3-point range. The Mountaineers shot 82.6 from the free throw line.
Kansas shot 42.4 percent from the floor, 44.8 percent from beyond the arc and made 6-of-15 from the line.
Huggins confirmed after the game that Adrian sprained his ankle although he re-entered the game.
“Nate and Jevon (Carter) are the heart and soul of the team,” Huggins said.
WVU hosts Texas A&M on Saturday at noon as part of the SEC/ Big 12 Challenge.
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS