West Virginia Battles But Loses To #8 Kansas, 83-69

Juwan Staten Continues to make his case for Big 12 First Team Honors - Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Mountaineers lost to the #8 team in the country on Saturday afternoon in Kansas, but managed to keep their positive momentum moving forward.

When WVU rides a 3-game winning streak into Lawrence, Kansas to take on the #8 team in the country, one hopes they will simply keep the recent momentum of positive play going…even in a loss.

One got what they hoped for today as WVU lost to KU 83-69. The Mountaineers fell to 14-10 (6-5); the Jayhawks improved to 18-5 (9-1).

WVU lost on the road, but given the disparity in future NBA talent, the Mountaineers performed admirably. They fought hard, played smart for the most part, and continued building team confidence. Juwan Staten led the Mountaineers in scoring with 22 points, and continues to build his case for first team All-conference honors.  As well, WVU's overall team defense (especially this 1-3-1 wrinkle) has really improved from just six games ago.

Early in the first half the WVU guards purposefully ran screen and roll plays to give our big guys opportunities to score. Because of foul trouble and a lack of inside success through the course of the first half, WVU relied once again on the guard play of Eron Harris (17 points) and Staten – WVU’s only players to score in double figures.

WVU hung in there with the best team in the conference for most of the game – losing their grip on the game at just about the 10:00 mark in the second half. They never recovered. Kansas’ super-frosh Andrew Wiggins played "ok," (6-14 from floor) but still led the Jayhawks in scoring with 19 points. Defensively, he shut down Eron Harris for the final 3/4 of the game - causing several errant shots and one complete air ball.

WVU continues to get beat on the boards and outscored badly in the paint. KU scored 30 of their 43 first half points in the paint. While our long-term prospects for improvement in this area are good (added players & experience for Williams and Watkins), this season we’re going to have to find a way to take pressure off the perimeter if we hope to play significant games in tournament time.

As is my post-game and family dinner custom, let’s play a little HIGH-LOW.

HIGH POINTS

  • Juwan Staten. He makes everyone around him better.
  • WVU’s strong starts to both the first and second halves…imagine where we’d be if we finished halves as well as we begin them.
  • Team Free-Throw Shooting - 25-31 for 80%. This will help a lot here in the stretch run.
  • WVU’s help side defense continues to improve. I lost count of the number of backside plays that were disrupted by the helping defender, but it made a difference.
  • Kevin Noreen’s defensive hustle – two charges taken in the first half – influences the others’ willingness to take the tough falls.

LOW POINTS

  • "The Ankle Breaker" – Gary Browne got worked on national television by Frank Mason – Browne will be lucky if this one isn’t shown over and over on YouTube.
  • Slam Dunked…a lot. I realize that KU is a great team, but they just threw down and energized their team seemingly at will.
  • WVU’s absence of a dominating center – never more obvious than when we play the KU’s of the world.
  • Scoring Droughts - WVU first half scoring drought featured no FGs in the last 7 ½ minutes. It is amazing that we were only down 7 points at the break. Our 2nd half scoring was anemic in the final 10 minutes, too.
  • Remi Debo’s inconsistent shooting. It does "ZERO" good to run plays for him to get open three-point shots if he’s only going to hit 1 of 7 (he was 1-4 last game).

Seven regular season games remain (five against Top 20 teams) and conventional wisdom says that winning four of them guarantees an NCAA Tournament bid.

Any "HIGH-LOW" suggestions?

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