West Virginia has fallen on hard times since being ranked No. 13 in the AP preseason poll. But three defensive stops down the stretch made a difference against the Jayhawks and gave the Mountaineers a reason to think there’s time this season to turn things around.
“It’s just a matter of being mentally tough enough to do the right things,” Huggins said. “I’m just happy to win. This isn’t where we thought we’d be.”
Haley hit all five of his field-goal tries and tied a season high with 13 points despite playing with a bandage on his injured left wrist. Huggins said he has implored Haley to drive to the basket.
The junior college transfer listened.
“I know everybody has been waiting on me to attack and get a little bit more aggressive,” Haley said. “The more minutes I play, the more comfortable I get. I’m very aware of my game and what I can do, so I think this is just another stepping stone as far as the season is going.”
Dedric Lawson and Marcus Garrett made layups 29 seconds apart to give the Jayhawks (15-3, 4-2) their largest lead at 64-58 with 2:34 left. But Kansas didn’t score again.
Wes Harris responded with a 3-pointer for West Virginia and Derek Culver’s layup cut the deficit to 64-63 with 1:26 remaining. Culver then grabbed a rebound, but threw the ball straight to Garrett with 54 seconds left.
West Virginia got another chance after Lagerald Vick’s airball. Haley rushed, drove past Quentin Grimes and made the go-ahead layup.
Self said he should have called timeout after Haley’s basket. His intention, with Kansas in a double bonus and down one point, was to drive to the basket and either score or force a foul.
Instead, Vick missed a 3-point try from the corner as time ran out, and West Virginia fans stormed the court after the Mountaineers’ fifth win over the Jayhawks in their last six meetings in Morgantown.
“You can’t get this one back,” Self said. “We’ll be OK.”
James “Beetle” Bolden added 12 points despite playing with an illness and Culver scored 12 for West Virginia.
Lawson and Garrett had 15 points apiece for Kansas, which had won three in a row. Vick scored 13.
Kansas: The Jayhawks committed 18 turnovers, including 13 in the first half, and missed several chances to put West Virginia away down the stretch. The Jayhawks got just four points from their bench.
West Virginia: It marked a good start to West Virginia’s toughest stretch of the season with four ranked opponents over six games. The Mountaineers also play at No. 3 Tennessee in the SEC/Big 12 challenge on Jan. 26, host No. 20 Oklahoma on Feb. 2 and play at No. 8 Texas Tech on Feb. 4.
Huggins earned an extra $25,000 for beating Kansas — a contract bonus that he donates to cancer research in the name of his late mother.
A little over a year ago, West Virginia was ranked No. 2. Saturday marked the first taste of a raucous home atmosphere for several new players, including Culver.
“That right there, I enjoy that,” he said “Me, being a freshman and a deer in headlights when it comes to things like that, that was fun. I’m not going to lie, that was fun.”
Kansas hosts Iowa State on Monday night before traveling to Kentucky next Saturday for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
West Virginia hosts Baylor on Monday night.
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