MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For once, No. 17 West Virginia found a way to finish strong.
Miles McBride scored a career-high 29 points, Taz Sherman had a career-best 25 and West Virginia kept pushing all game long, beating No. 23 Kansas 91-79 on Saturday.
The Mountaineers (13-5, 6-3 Big 12) never trailed and got off to a good start in a challenging stretch where they will play six straight opponents that are currently ranked.
Nail-biting finishes have been the norm lately for the Mountaineers, who needed some late free throws to hold off Iowa State on the road on Tuesday. They faded in a close loss to Florida at home on Jan. 30 and they got a last-second shot from McBride to edge No. 13 Texas Tech on Jan. 25.
“We just wanted to close out the game as best as we can,” Sherman said. “As everybody knows, that’s one of those things we had a problem with other teams. But I feel like we closed out the game well this time.”
Kansas (12-7, 6-5) lost its fifth straight road game. The Jayhawks couldn’t rely on a barrage of 3-pointers as they did in beating West Virginia at home on Dec. 22 — they were 7 of 20 from long distance on Saturday.
“We knew they were going to make a run at some point,” McBride said. “But we weathered the storm and gave it back to them, honestly.”
McBride also had seven rebounds and eight assists. Derek Culver had 19 points and nine rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season.
Trailing by 10 at halftime, Kansas forced several turnovers to tie it. But McBride and Sherman were dominant, combining to score 33 points in the second half while shooting 10 of 15.
“We usually don’t have just guards go whip us,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “That’s what happened tonight with those two. McBride totally dominated the game. He was a first-team all-American tonight the way he played. Made every big shot. Of course, Sherman had a big game. We knew they were keys looking back.
“Those guys just kind of took over down the stretch.”
McBride broke out of a mini-slump that saw him held to nine points in the previous two games. The sophomore hit a 3-pointer with 14:15 left to put West Virginia ahead to stay.
“It’s all about preparation,” said McBride, who was 8 of 15 from the floor, including four 3-pointers, and made all nine foul shots. “When I come into a game more prepared and a little bit more motivated, I think that every shot is going.”
Emmitt Matthews made a 3-pointer and Sherman followed with a three-point play to put West Virginia ahead 84-71 with 2:30 left. The Mountaineers made five of their last seven shots.
As well as the Mountaineers performed on the offensive end, their effort was set up by defense. The Jayhawks didn’t make a field goal over a three-minute stretch near the end of the game.
“That was our best defensive performance of the year,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.
Marcus Garrett led the Jayhawks with 18 points. David McCormack added 17 points and nine rebounds, while Jalen Wilson had 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Kansas: Self fell to 3-6 against West Virginia in Morgantown. The Jayhawks have lost five of their last seven games and will need a solid push over the final month to improve their NCAA Tournament seeding with games still remaining against ranked opponents Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers needed a good shooting performance and made 50% (32 of 64) of their field goals. They also forced 18 turnovers. Every time Huggins beats Kansas, he gets a $25,000 contract bonus that he donates to cancer research in his late mother’s name.
The Jayhawks could drop out of the AP Top 25 poll for the first time since February 2009, a record streak of 231 consecutive weeks. West Virginia should move up with its second straight win.
PLAYING UNTIL THE FINISH
Huggins said despite having a double-digit lead, he didn’t become sure of pulling out a win until Self started telling his team not to foul.
“When Bill told them to stop fouling, that was about when I started relaxing,” Huggins said. “It got to a point where there was no way they could come back, and he just said stop fouling, so I was happy about that. Just run the clock.”