Jamari Traylor saved senior night and helped Kansas win another Big 12 regular season championship outright on Tuesday with a huge second half that thwarted an historic upset bid from West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks took advantage of awful free throw shooting by the Moutaineers down the stretch to force overtime and win 76-69, getting revenge for a loss at West Virginia last month. West Virginia missed three of five free throws in the final 45 seconds of regulation and went 16-for-28 at the foul line in the game.
The Mountaineers raced to an 18-point lead in the first half made even more impressive because they were playing without leading scorer Juwan Staten and senior Gary Browne. Staten provided the winning layup, albeit controversial, against the Jayhawks in Morgantown.
West Virginia was trying to be the first team to beat Kansas on senior night in 32 years. It was also trying to end the Jayhawks’ 23-game home-court winning streak and become the first team to sweep Kansas in the regular season in Bill Self’s tenure as coach at KU.
But with Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Perry Ellis out of action after a teammate rolled into his leg late in the first half, Self had to lean heavily on Traylor, who came through with a performance Kansas fans won’t soon forget.
Traylor scored all of his 14 points in the second half and overtime and gave Kansas a strong presence in the post with Ellis out and Cliff Alexander missing another game with NCAA eligibility issues. Frank Mason also came up big on a night when the Jayhawks failed to make a 3-pointer. Kansas went 0-15 from behind the arc and did not attempt a 3-pointer in overtime. Mason scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
West Virginia not only struggled at the foul line, it struggled to put the ball in the basket period. The Mountaineers made only 22 of 63 field goal attempts but kept themselves in it in the second half by making 3-pointers. They were 9-for-25 behind the arc in the game.
The Mountaineers made one two-point field goal in the final 24 minutes of the game. Kansas celebrated another championship because of that fact probably more than any other.
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