After losing two crucial road games, the fate of the WVU basketball team may be written on Saturday when the No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks come to town.
West Virginia (14-11, 3-9 Big 12) will be playing in perhaps their most important and most emotional game of the season in front of a sold out WVU Coliseum.
Kansas (21-4, 10-2 Big 12) comes in as the top team in the Big 12, as they have won four of their last five games. While Kansas has dominated the Big 12 over the years, they have not had much success in Morgantown. Since WVU joined the Big 12, the Mountaineers have posted a 6-3 record at home against the Jayhawks.
Over the past few years, there have been plenty of classics between the Mountaineers and Jayhawks in Morgantown, with multiple court stormings. Let’s look back at some of the best matchups over the years.
2014-2015 (62-61 WVU)
With No. 8 Kansas coming to town to face the No. 23 Mountaineers, the Coliseum was set to be filled to capacity. That was until a snowstorm hit West Virginia. Many fans who had bought tickets could not make it out to the game, but the fans that were there were loud.
WVU got out to a good start, grabbing an early double-digit lead in the beginning of the first half. Kansas answered, however, and cut the lead to three points at halftime.
To start the second half, Kansas went on a 10-0 run to grab a seven-point advantage. WVU clawed their way back in with the consistent offensive play of senior guard Juwan Staten. Staten scored 11 of his 20 points in the second half, connecting on a hand full of long jumpers.
One of the main turning points of the game came with around three minutes to play. Kansas was up by five and WVU was struggling to find momentum, until freshman guard Jevon Carter stepped up. Carter made a three-pointer to cut the Kansas lead to two points with 3:02 left.
Right after the three, Gary Browne stole the ball from Kansas guard Frank Mason. The Mountaineers pushed the ball down the floor and found Carter again for an open three-pointer. Carter swished the shot and put the Mountaineers up by one with 2:31 left to play.
While Carter’s sequence was huge, the play of the night came from WVU’s leader Juwan Staten. With Kansas up by one point with eight seconds left, the Mountaineers had one more chance.
The ball was given to Staten, and he quickly dribbled down the floor. When he got to the paint, Staten put a spin move on Frank Mason and made a left-handed layup with three seconds to go.
Down by one, Kansas threw a long pass down the floor to Perry Ellis. Ellis caught the ball and had a clean look at a layup as time expired. The shot went off the back rim and missed, which gave West Virginia a 62-61 upset victory. The Mountaineer students immediately charged the floor in what became one of the most memorable wins for WVU since joining the Big 12.
2016-2017 (85-69 WVU)
Coming into Morgantown in 2017, the Kansas Jayhawks had an 18-2 record and sat at No. 2 in the AP poll. The Jayhawks knew they had a challenge on their hands, as WVU was No. 18 in the country, led by veterans Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles Jr., and Nathan Adrian.
On this night, the star was sophomore forward Esa Ahmad. Ahmad had a career day, scoring 27 points while shooting 10-for-17 from the field. In the first 10 minutes of the game, Ahmad scored eight points, including an early one-handed dunk and an and-one. The teams exchanged leads throughout the first half, but WVU took a three-point lead into the break.
WVU started the second half on a 6-0 run to extend the lead to nine points after Esa Ahmad threw down another dunk. After keeping the lead for the first part of the second half, WVU let Kansas claw their way back into the game.
Down by seven, Kansas went on an 8-0 run with a three-pointer from Devonte Graham, a layup from Frank Mason, and a three-pointer from Svi Mykhailiuk. The Jayhawks had now taken the lead with around 10 minutes left.
After Kansas took the lead, WVU went on a 6-0 run to regain the lead, and the Mountaineers never lost the lead again. WVU kept adding to the margin down the stretch, and the dagger came when Sagaba Konate viciously dunked the ball to give the Mountaineers a double-digit lead.
WVU won the game by the score of 85-69, and it marked the fourth consecutive win against Kansas in Morgantown.
2018-2019 (65-64 WVU)
In 2019, the Mountaineers were struggling after Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. graduated, as they only had an 8-9 record coming into the game against Kansas. Kansas was a good team again, sitting at No. 8 in the country before coming to Morgantown.
In the first half, neither team could build on a lead, as it was a low scoring frame. The game was tied 23-23 at halftime.
The second half brought more lead changes and ties, as neither team could run away with things. With 2:38 remaining, Marcus Garrett made a layup to give Kansas a six-point lead, which was a fairly sizeable margin in this game.
The Garrett bucket would be the last for the Jayhawks, as the Mountaineers held them scoreless for the rest of the game. After Garrett’s layup, Wesley Harris swished a three-pointer to cut the Kansas lead to three points.
After a defensive stop, WVU found freshman Derek Culver in the post for a layup to make it a one-point game with 1:27 left.
After the Culver layup, both teams went more than a minute without scoring, which kept it a one-point game with little time on the clock.
WVU had the ball in the closing seconds as Jermaine Haley took the ball at the top of the key. Haley got downhill and took the ball to the basket, making a layup off the glass with eight seconds to go.
Kansas’s Lagerald Vick put up a three-pointer that missed off the side of the rim with just one second left. Dedric Lawson got the offensive rebound and tried to tip the ball in at the buzzer for the win, but the shot was just off. WVU escaped with the 65-64 win in what was one of the highest points of a tough season.
In another year of ups and downs, the Mountaineers will look to find that signature win against Kansas that could turn the season around. Kansas and West Virginia will tip-off on Saturday at 8 p.m. from the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown. The game will be televised on ESPN.