Bill Self and his staff haven't lost back-to-back games at Allen Fieldhouse since arriving at Kansas in 2003. He reminded the Jayhawks of that at halftime of Monday night's 84-80 overtime win against West Virginia -- when KU was trailing by seven, a deficit that would double with mere minutes to play -- and the team responded with an effort down the stretch that was as crazy as it was clutch to cap one of the most memorable nights in the history of that storied building.
There's a lot to unpack here, including Kansas' almost miraculous rally, how West Virginia let it happen, and what it ultimately means for both teams. Let's start with the victors, and the moment that things turned in Lawrence: when Kansas started to make its move from being down 64-50 with 2:45 to go to sending this game into overtime.
When Kansas started to have hope
West Virginia played as well as it could've played for about 30 minutes. Bob Huggins had a solid game plan (likely thanks to the win in Morgantown earlier this season) and stunned the home crowd with an early double-digit lead. As mentioned, the Mountaineers led by seven at halftime and every time Kansas threatened to make a run, there was an answer from Tarik Phillip or Elijah Macon.
That is, until Frank Mason went into takeover mode.
Mason didn't shoot the ball well most of the night and did most of his damage at the free throw line, but he had some huge three-pointers to spark the comeback. Landen Lucas was a monster on the offensive boards, and by securing the rebound from a Devonte Graham missed three-pointer he kept the possession alive for Mason, who buried a triple with 2:21 remaining.
Timeout Kansas, and suddenly it's a nine-point game. Two missed WVU free throws and a Devonte Graham three-pointer, and suddenly its a six-point game. The fans who had previously left Allen Fieldhouse thinking Kansas was about to be swept by West Virginia were pushing their way back into aisles from the section exits and the place was rocking.
Oh, and then Graham turned around and forced a five-second violation.
Cue the West Virginia panic
For all the deserved praise that will be tossed around with this Kansas team, a big part of the story is how West Virginia missed a chance to be the first Big 12 team to complete a regular-season sweep of the Bill Self-coached Jayhawks, who were also on the bring of losing consecutive home games for the first time since 1988-89.
We told you about the missed free throws. And the five-second violation. But WVU still had a six-point lead with less than minute to play. The Mountaineers are a top-10 team, more than capable of regrouping and finishing this thing off. Problem was, they let the momentum turn, and once it started rolling against them, nothing went their way. And Kansas just kept feasting with plays like this steal and put-back dunk.
It was right about here that if you had WVU on the money line, you were wishing you could change your bet. Kansas used its final timeout with 33 seconds left after Graham's three-pointer cut the lead to 71-69, but still, even after all that had transpired, the odds were on the side of WVU. If they could just hold onto the ball and make their free throws.
So ... about that holding onto the ball part:
At this point, WVU was on the ropes. On the ensuing possession, Frank Mason wound up driving the lane, drawing contact, and hitting both free throws to tie the game. West Virginia missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer after a pretty lifeless final possession to end regulation.
All told, KU outscored West Virginia 21-7 over the final three minutes. Everything that could've gone wrong -- or right, depending on your perspective -- did exactly that. Missed free throws. Offensive rebounds. Turnovers. Clutch 3-pointers. It all not only left the door open for Kansas to force overtime, but totally stunted WVU's rhythm in the process. The score was tied on the board when overtime started, obviously, but the game's flow made it feel like Kansas was up by two possessions.
Overtime was a formality. When it got that far, Kansas had already won.
What comes next?
With Monday's win and Baylor's loss at Texas Tech, Kansas can come pretty close to wrapping up a 13th straight Big 12 regular season championship with a win at Baylor on Saturday. That's something that is meaningful to Frank Mason III and the vets in this program, since, as Mason told ESPN, no one wants to be a part of the team that couldn't keep the streak going.
West Virginia, meanwhile, gets Texas Tech on Saturday. Huggins said after the game that he'll give his team a few days off, and it needs them. The Mountaineers can obviously play with anyone in the country. They're ranked No. 9 in the latest AP poll. They're a Final Four caliber team under the right circumstances, but we'll learn a lot about their makeup from how they bounce back from this one.