On Tuesday night, on a snowy evening in Morgantown, the West Virginia Mountaineers picked up their first victory over a #1 ranked team in over 30 years.
Six times between February 27th, 1983 and January 12th, 2016, West Virginia had an opportunity to make history.
Six times they came up short.
There were the two A-10 conference games against #1 Temple within five days of each other: A 62-61 loss in Morgantown on 2/23/1988 followed shortly after by a 78-69 loss on 2/28/1988 to the Owls at McGonigle Hall in Philly. Temple would go on to lose in the Elite 8 to Duke.
Seven years passed before West Virginia would have another opportunity to topple the nation's top ranked team, and they very nearly did it. Hosting #1 Massachusetts (coached by some Calipari guy) on 1/27/1995, West Virginia held a 45-37 lead going into the break before falling in overtime 97-94. Three Mountaineers, Cyrus Jones, Seldon Jefferson, and Zain Shaw, all scored over 20 points in the contest (and those three also combined for 17 turnovers.)
The next opportunity came four years later on 1/19/1999, and the Mountaineers never had a chance. Led by 30 points from Rip Hamilton, #1 Connecticut pounded West Virginia 85-40.
UConn would again be WVU's next shot at #1, and again the Huskies took care of business. On 2/18/2006, despite 25 points from Mike Gansey, the #11 Mountaineers would lose 81-75.
I think we all know what happened last season. The "36 and won" game is one all of West Virginia would like to forget.
Which brings us back to Tuesday night. The Mountaineers didn't just beat the #1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks, they manhandled them and controlled the game. Their 11 point victory was the second time in school history they defeated a #1 ranked team by double digits.
|Date||Opponent||WVU Score||Opponent Score||W/L||Location|
|12/21/1957||North Carolina||75||64||W||Memorial Coliseum (Lexington, KY)|
|2/7/1966||Duke||94||90||W||Charleston Civic Center (Charleston, WV)|
|12/21/1968||UCLA||56||95||L||Pauley Pavilion (Los Angeles, CA)|
|2/27/1983||UNLV||87||78||W||WVU Coliseum (Morgantown, WV)|
|2/23/1988||Temple||61||62||L||WVU Coliseum (Morgantown, WV)|
|2/28/1988||Temple||69||78||L||McGonigle Hall (Philadelphia, PA)|
|1/27/1995||UMASS||94||97||L||WVU Coliseum (Morgantown, WV)|
|1/9/1999||UConn||45||80||L||WVU Coliseum (Morgantown, WV)|
|2/18/2006||UConn||81||75||L||WVU Coliseum (Morgantown, WV)|
|3/26/2015||Kentucky||39||78||L||Quicken Loans Arena (Cleveland, OH)|
|1/12/2016||Kansas||74||63||W||WVU Coliseum (Morgantown, WV)|
The Mountaineers are 4-7 against the AP #1, with an average score of 70-79.
Here's a few notes on WVU's three victories over #1 before Tuesday:
#8 West Virginia 75, #1 North Carolina 64 - 12/21/1957
This was a heck of a week for the Mountaineers, and probably the best week of regular season basketball in school history (though a win in Norman on Saturday would change that.)
Just one day after beating #5 Kentucky, West Virginia poured it on the Tar Heels to pick up their first ever victory over the #1 ranked team. A balanced effort led the Mountaineers to victory: 15 points from Don Vincent, and 14 each from Jerry West and Lloyd Sharrar.
I know the 1958-59 team made it to the championship game, but for my money the 1957-58 squad is the best in school history. They are the only group to finish #1 in the final AP poll (there was no post-tournament poll in those days.)
An injury to star center Lloyd Sharrar resulted in West Virginia being upset in the first round by Manhattan, only their second loss for the entire season.
West Virginia 94, #1 Duke 90 - 2/27/1966
Yep, that's right, the Charleston Civic Center hosted a matchup between West Virginia and Duke. Former Duke assistant coach Bucky Waters coached the Mountaineers to victory and three years later would leave Morgantown to be the head coach of the Blue Devils. John Lesher scored 28 points and 10 rebounds in the Mountaineer victory. West Virginia won despite a 3-15 shooting effort from Fritz Williams, one of the best players in school history. Duke would go on to lose in the Final Four.
West Virginia 87, #1 UNLV 78 - 2/27/1983
Exactly 17 years to the day from their last victory over #1, West Virginia picked up another one over Jerry Tarkanian and the Runnin' Rebels. Greg Jones came up huge in the contest, scoring 32 points and going 5-10 from three. West Virginia would lose in the first round to James Madison that season, and UNLV was upset in the second round by NC State. I think you know how that one ended for the Wolf Pack.
Stats and info for this post were obtained from the indispensable wvustats.com