MORGANTOWN, W.Va.– The West Virginia Mountaineers had a statement to make to America on Tuesday night.
And No.11 WVU did just that when it stunned No.1 Kansas 74-63 on a blustery winter night in Morgantown.
“No matter how good or how bad we are playing, you never see anything about West Virginia,” WVU guard Jevon Carter said. “We come in here and beat the best teams, they don’t have no choice but to talk about us.”
The Mountaineer faithful, who braved the snowy roads and bumper-to-bumper traffic, stormed the court and sang John Denver’s Country Roads” with their basketball team.
The win was WVU’s first win over a top-ranked team in 33 years.
WVU (15-1, 4-0 Big 12) is off to its best start since 1982 when it started 24-1.
Perry Ellis tallied 21 points for Kansas (14-2, 3-1). Frank Mason III scored 12 points and Wayne Selden Jr. added 11.
The Mountaineers used the combination of their high-pressure and half-court defense to force the Jayhawks into a season-high 22 turnovers.
Kansas shot 42 percent from the field for the game and was held to its lowest point turnover of the season.
“Our half-court defense is a lot better,” Tarik Phillip said. “Our strength has been the press the last year and a half so we felt if our half-court D got as good as our press, we would be tough to beat.”
“We tried to run them off the line,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “We didn’t do a very good job early. I thought we did a better job as the game wore on. We gave some at the end – it’s hard when you end up with your power forward on a point guard a lot of times, your point guard on the center and all of that. That’s why we’ve got to have ball pressure and make them scramble a little bit so we can get back to the guys we’re supposed to be guarding.”
Paige scored 17 points in the first half and the Mountaineers led 39-27 at halftime.
In the second half, Ellis made two free throws to pull the Jayhawks within four with 14:06 to play.
Paige answered the Kansas threat, scoring on a driving layup. Phillip followed with a layup to give WVU a 47-39 lead with 12:21 left.
Ellis would test the Mountaineers once more with a dunk at the midway point to cut the deficit to 50-44, but the Jayhawks couldn’t get any closer.
“The game, in a nutshell, is that they were so much more aggressive and quicker,” said Kansas coach Bill Self. “They were way more athletic than we were and played above the rim. We didn’t do any of that. They beat us off the bounce whenever they wanted to and exposed our perimeter defense.”
WVU went 12 of 16 from the line down the stretch. Williams kept hitting free throws.
The Jayhawks have lost three straight to the Mountaineers at the Coliseum.
Things aren’t getting any easier for WVU as the head to Norman to take on No. 2 Oklahoma on Saturday. Tipoff is at 4 p.m. (ET).