For much of the night Monday, Kansas appeared set to make the sort of history that it never wants to make. By the end of a wild comeback, it instead took another massive step toward the type of positive history it chases every season.
Down 14 points to No. 9 West Virginia with 2:43 left, Kansas guard Frank Mason went to the line and made two free throws. It was the beginning of an absurd late comeback in which the No. 3 Jayhawks finished regulation on a 21-7 run to force overtime, where they won 84-80 at Allen Fieldhouse.
Pulling off the ridiculous comeback allowed Kansas to:
- Take a gigantic step toward winning a 13th straight Big 12 championship. Earlier in the night, No. 4 Baylor lost to Texas Tech, 84-78. By beating West Virginia, Kansas improved to 11-2 in the Big 12, giving it a two-game lead over Baylor and a three-game lead over West Virginia in the conference standings. It's a lead that feels nearly insurmountable, although Kansas has to visit Baylor on Saturday.
- Avoid losing back-to-back home games, which it hasn't done since the 1988-89 season. The Jayhawks had a 54-game home winning streak -- 51 at Allen Fieldhouse -- ended when they lost to Iowa State on Feb. 4. Thanks to the comeback, they still haven't lost consecutive home games since Roy Williams' debut season, when they had a an eight-game losing streak -- which included four at home. That was the last time Kansas has missed an NCAA Tournament.
- Avoid getting swept by a Big 12 team. West Virginia beat Kansas in Morgantown 85-69 on Jan. 24. ESPN pointed out that Self hasn't been swept in two games by a conference opponent since 1999-00 at Tulsa, which lost twice to Fresno State in the regular season (and again in the WAC tournament).
Bill Self Since 2000-01 Season - By the Numbers- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 14, 2017
Home-and-home series 107
Times swept 0
For most of the night, it appeared to be a game that Kansas had no business winning. ESPN commentator Dick Vitale even chastised some Jayhawks fans for leaving early when it appeared hopes for a win had been dashed.
West Virginia's aggressive, physical defense frustrated Kansas all night -- or at least for the first 35 minutes -- as stars Mason, Devonte' Graham and Josh Jackson were a combined 5-for-26 on field goals with five minutes left in the game. Even with the comeback, Kansas shot only 21-for-61 from the field, but it made 33 of 44 free throws in a foul-happy game in which the two teams combined to have five players foul out.
The comeback was sparked in part by Kansas turning the tables on West Virginia with an aggressive press to try to get the ball back. In the final three minutes, the Jayhawks forced six turnovers and grabbed three offensive rebounds, as West Virginia melted down and Kansas suddenly got hot. Stifled by the WVU defense for so much of the night, Mason scored 11 points in the final three minutes of regulation, including two free throws with 21 seconds left to tie the game after Graham cut the lead to two on a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left and the Jayhawks abruptly forced a turnover.
A rattled West Virginia fired off an unsuccessful 3-pointer by Tarik Phillip before the buzzer, sending the game into overtime -- where the Mountaineers didn't seem to have a chance after blowing the lead in one of the most hostile road environments in sports. It was best exemplified by Landen Lucas missing two free throws with a four-point lead with 15 seconds left, only for West Virginia's Nathan Adrian to let the rebound bounce of his leg and out of bounds to give the ball right back. Kansas made a few mistakes late, too, but it closed the door on the comeback by outscoring WVU 13-9 in overtime led by two Graham threes, with Mason icing the game with a pair of free throws with seven seconds left.
Are you KIDDING ME with this possession, Kansas pic.twitter.com/bNYqWMhFdV- Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) February 14, 2017
Despite the horrendous shooting from the field, Mason made 16 free throws to finish with 24 points, while Jackson made five 3-pointers to finish with 18 points and Jackson and Lagerald Vick both scored 14. Kansas beat West Virginia at its own game, turning the ball over 15 times but forcing 21 takeaways, and the Mountaineers missed a few key free throws late.
With under three minutes left, some fans headed for the exits, not wanting to witness another home loss and another loss to West Virginia, the type of events that have never happened under Self. By the end, the vast majority of fans who stayed -- and who before the game went for a noise record -- witnessed perhaps the most stunning comeback of this college basketball season and Kansas' biggest step yet toward reasserting its Big 12 dominance once again.
Kansas beat Kentucky for the 2nd time this season, this time for setting a WORLD RECORD for loudest indoor arena. pic.twitter.com/EUo9vuq94F- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 14, 2017