Published Feb. 26, 2018
Since joining the Big 12 in 2012, West Virginia has always given Kansas problems. Whether it be the Mountaineers’ famous “Press Virginia” or the Jayhawks’ own shortcomings, time and time again, these problems have led to Kansas losses in Morgantown, West Virginia. Before finally winning in Morgantown earlier this year, Kansas had lost in WVU Coliseum for four-straight years.
Luckily for the Jayhawks, the losses were always preceded or followed by a win inside Allen Fieldhouse against West Virginia.
The Kansas vs. West Virginia game on Feb. 13, 2017, is a game Kansas fans will not forget in a hurry. In one of the most improbable comebacks in the history of Allen Fieldhouse, the Kansas Jayhawks made history.
Feb. 13, 2016
In the game just prior to Kansas vs. West Virginia, Big 12 leaders Baylor fell to Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. With the Bears’ loss, the Jayhawks could jump back into a tie for first place — as long as they grabbed a win over the West Virginia Mountaineers later that evening.
Kansas’ next game after West Virginia would be on the road at leader Baylor in Waco, Texas, thus making the West Virginia game a golden opportunity to set the stage for a takeover of the Big 12 five days later.
Part II - The pregame
In the leadup to the game, it is announced that all 16,300 people packed into Allen Fieldhouse will attempt to set a new world record for the loudest roar inside an arena.
As one walks around the concourse, the tension is palpable. Everyone in attendance understands the importance of the game. The pregame chatter revolves around how Kansas would do against West Virginia’s press after Kansas struggled against it in Morgantown. While some focus on the task at hand, others look ahead to the trip to Baylor just a few days later.
Just before tipoff, with the help of the cheer squad, those in the Fieldhouse set the new world record at 130.4 decibels, which is the equivalent of a military jet taking off from an aircraft carrier.
Brian Hanni (play-by-play for Jayhawk Radio) — “It was truly special noise on that night. It was an amazing atmosphere for such a huge game.”
Brendan Dzwierzynski (play-by-play for KJHK) — “Being down there on the court when it was 130.4, it hurt to not have headphones on — it was that loud. To see all 16,000 people getting up and getting loud was wild.”
Amie Just (former University Daily Kansan sports editor) — “It was so loud ... I had a headache for the next week.”
Bob Wischusen, on ESPN broadcast — “This is some kind of atmosphere.”
Part III - First Half
As Kansas senior forward Landen Lucas and West Virginia’s Elijah Macon approach mid-court, Allen Fieldhouse is already rocking. Macon wins the tip for West Virginia, and the Mountaineers score on the first possession with a three from Tarik Phillip.
After the basket, junior guard Devonte’ Graham’s pass is tipped by Nathan Adrian and recovered by Phillip, who lays it in.
Kansas starts 1-for-11 from the field and falls behind 16-5 early.
Dzwierzynski — “Over the last few years, there were a lot of games where KU either played a really poor first half or a really poor second half, and they would be fine. I just assumed that was going to be the case.”
Just — “I honestly wasn’t all that concerned; this team was known for slow starts.”
Josh Jackson, postgame — “It was one of those nights, sometimes the shots don’t fall.”
After Jevon Carter steals the ball, he breaks out with only senior guard Frank Mason III to beat. As Carter goes up for the right-handed layup, Graham comes out of nowhere to block the shot.
Dzwierzynski — “That was the first moment after the record was set that people got up and got excited. That was the first moment when I thought ‘OK, this is how it starts.’ It’s not really in character for Devonte’ to make that kind of play.”
Just — “Where I was sitting I had a perfect view of the play — it was kind of unexpected.”
Dick Vitale, on ESPN broadcast – “Oh! What a defensive play, what a play!”
The Kansas offense gets off to a slow start. Kansas coach Bill Self looks to his bench for a spark — sophomore guard Lagerald Vick. Over the span of three and a half minutes, Vick notches 10 points and an assist to bring Kansas back within one.
Dzwierzynski — “We were seeing up close and personal this run go together and it, to me, validated my previous thought that it was just a cold start. At that point, I thought this would be the run to turn the tide.”
Self, postgame— “[Vick] kept it from being a blowout, to be honest.”
With 5 minutes and 56 seconds left in the first half, Kansas takes a 26-21 lead. West Virginia comes roaring back after Lucas goes to the bench with foul trouble. With 40 seconds to play in the half, Esa Ahmad makes a three-point play to take West Virginia up 36-32. Just before time expires, Carter nails a three to take West Virginia up seven going to the break.
Dzwierzynski — “That one didn’t sit well with me going into the break. That’s not the kind of thing that happens to KU at Allen Fieldhouse. At the time, it just didn’t feel right; it was just a cold-blooded three.”
Just — “When Jevon Carter hit that shot, you could hear the crowd fall silent. I didn’t expect it to go in.”
Part IV — Second Half
The second half doesn’t start well for Kansas. Adrian nails a three to start the half and extends West Virginia’s lead to 10 points. For the majority of the second half, West Virginia holds a seven-point lead, until Kansas enters a seven-minute field goal drought. With the clock ticking just under the three-minute mark, Phillip makes a layup to take the Mountaineers up 14.
Dzwierzynski — “At this point, the crowd is still in it but not into it. At this point, it was pretty much look ahead mode. We didn’t expect what was coming next.”
Just — “I never really lost hope, even down 14.”
Vitale, on ESPN broadcast — “[Coach] Bob Huggins and his kids can feel pretty good right about now.”
Graham, postgame — “At the under-four timeout, we just talked about staying in it. Coach kept saying we would step up and make plays.”
Coming down the other end, Mason is fouled on a layup. As Mason goes to the line, droves of people begin to leave Allen Fieldhouse. As the fans leave, Mason makes both free throws.
Hanni — “I did reference that a couple of folks had started to head towards the exits, but never did I think the game was over — not in that building, not with that program.”
Wischusen, on ESPN broadcast — “You want to talk about an eclipse at Allen Fieldhouse? Folks are leaving early.”
Vitale, on ESPN broadcast — “I can’t believe it! What are Jayhawk fans doing?
Self, postgame— “The fans that stayed were huge.”
As the clock ticks under the two-minute mark, Kansas trails 64-55. Graham catches a pinpoint pass from Vick. Graham rises up and sinks the three to put Kansas down six.
Vitale, on ESPN broadcast — “Uh oh! The three ball can change things quickly! Here come the Jayhawks!”
Dzwierzynski — “Devonte’s performance in the last few minutes and overtime is iconic. You could put him against anybody in the country. I don’t think anyone likes taking a big shot more than he does. You could tell after that one he was ready to go full blast — it picked up the mood of the team.”
Just — “I sat next to [Assistant Athletics Director] Greg Gurley for the games. During the next timeout after that went in, we both looked at each other and couldn’t believe what was happening.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, postgame — “[Graham] killed us. He killed us last year in the conference tournament, and he just made shots.”
After the three from Graham, Phillip takes the ball to inbound it. Unable to find an open man, Phillip is called for a five-second violation. Kansas immediately gets the ball back.
Dzwierzynski — “The inbounds defense for KU was and is kind of overlooked — it was perfectly executed. This was a lot more KU playing incredible defense on the baseline than West Virginia killing itself.”
Vitale, on ESPN broadcast — “They have got to regroup.”
On the ensuing possession, Graham collects the ball off the inbound on the left wing. Attempting to get to the rim, Graham has his pocket picked by Daxter Miles Jr. The ball rolls on the court momentarily before Phillip collects the ball and is fouled by freshman Josh Jackson. After making both free throws, Mason brings the ball down and immediately drives past Carter before laying the ball in.
Vitale, on ESPN broadcast — “What a terrific drive from Mason.”
Dzwierzynski — “It’s plays like that, that I think for a lot of his career got overlooked. He was such a fearless player. You knew you could trust him with the ball in his hands. You just knew he was going to make the right decision in crunch time.”
Just — “Frank could not be stopped. He beat Carter, one of the best defensive players in the Big 12, off the bounce multiple times.”
With just over a minute to play, junior guard Svi Mykhailiuk drives into the lane but is met by Carter, who takes a charge — Mykhailiuk’s fifth foul. On the ensuing inbound, Lucas deflects the inbound pass to Mason. As Mason goes up for the shot, Adrian fouls him, sending Mason back to the line.
Adrian, postgame — “We just weren’t taking care of the ball like we know how to.”
Dzwierzynski — “Just great defense on the baseline, West Virginia was completely rattled, which just speaks to the home court advantage. The crowd just gets to people.”
After Mason makes both free throws, West Virginia is able to inbound the ball. Phillip receives a pass from Ahmad in the open court and sprints toward the basket and his only man to beat, Lagerald Vick. Going up with the ball to lay it in, Phillip is fouled by Vick but the layup is short and caroms off the rim. Phillip then steps up, making both free throws to make it 68-62 with 1:07 to play.
On the ensuing possession, sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr. passes the ball across the court to Graham, who collects himself and drives to the rim. On his way, he is met by Macon, who fouls him.
Graham makes both free throws.
On the inbound, Adrian passes to Phillip, but Mason steals the ball, and lays it up. It doesn’t look likely to fall, but, luckily for Kansas, Lucas follows to flush it down.
Huggins, postgame — “Against pressure we didn’t look up the floor, we had guys standing down there wide open.”
Hanni — “[Adrian] couldn’t get the ball in. You could see his knees shaking as the magnitude of the moment weighed down upon him from the rafters all the way down.”
Dzwierzynski — “That was the narrative we know, a late-game comeback in Allen Fieldhouse. It happened so quick that it took us by surprise. That was the play where I thought ‘I know this is going to happen.’”
After Lucas finishes, Adrian is able to inbound the ball to Ahmad, who is immediately fouled. Ahmad steps up to the free-throw line and drains both. As Mason brings the ball down, the senior begins to probe but gets caught in the corner. He finds Graham coming across the court and Graham catches the ball as valuable seconds tick away. He begins to back up then pulls the trigger, shooting the ball over Carter. The ball hits nothing but net.
Vitale, on ESPN broadcast — “There is magic in the air, there is magic in the air! Allen Fieldhouse! The Phog!”
Dzwierzynski — “This is the most amazing shot I’ve ever seen in a college game. This comes back to my belief that he just loves to take the big shot more than anyone. Who would have the gall to take that shot? Devonte’ Graham’s legend will come back to that three-pointer.”
Graham, postgame — “You just take what you can get. We were driving and kicking or just making plays off the dribble and thank God they fell.”
On the inbound, Phillip receives the ball and is trapped by Jackson and Lucas. In desperation, Phillip throws the ball over their heads, but the pass is too strong and goes into the stands on the opposite side.
Vitale, on ESPN broadcast — “They need a timeout though because the way [West Virginia] have been panicking against that press.”
Dzwierzynski — “I thought Frank was going to try and dive and save [the ball]. After, it was so freaking loud. You could tell the whole place could feel it at that point.”
Hanni — “You could literally see the fear and intimidation on the faces of the West Virginia players.”
Self, postgame — “[We started working on pressing] maybe a month ago. We actually worked on trapping the other day — but not like that.”
With 26.5 seconds to play, Kansas sees a glimmer of hope. As Mason collects the inbound, he dribbles between his legs from his right to his left hand. He then darts to the left past Carter. Beating him to the hole, Mason goes up for a layup but gets fouled by Carter. Stepping up to the line down two points, Mason sinks both the free throws to tie the game with 21.6 seconds left.
Dzwierzynski — “That’s why he was the Player of the Year. You need a bucket or two free throws, and you give it to your best player and have him make a play.”
Mason, postgame — “[The free throws] were very crucial. That’s what our season is going to come down to when it matters the most.”
On the final possession, with the clock ticking down, Carter passes the ball to Phillip on the right wing as West Virginia looks to retake the lead. As Phillip collects the ball, freshman forward Jackson hurries to guard him. After two jab steps to the right, the clock ticks under three seconds, Phillip throws up a shot that clangs off the back of the rim. With the clock at zero and the score notched at 71, that means only one thing: overtime.
Dzwierzynski — “They throw it to Phillip on the wing, who is guarded by Josh Jackson, which is the worst matchup you could have. He got an OK look for the situation, but I have a feeling that is not what Bob Huggins wanted.”
Just — “It was actually a pretty good look.”
Jackson, postgame — “The biggest thing was we made defensive stops down the stretch”
Part V - Overtime
It is a rocky start for Kansas in overtime. Self draws up a beautiful play to get Lucas open, but the big man can’t finish. After Kansas get a stop on defense on the following possession, Mason brings the ball over the mid-court line on the right side. Seeing Graham open on the other side, Mason throws a pinpoint pass to Graham, who, without hesitation, pulls up and drains the three.
Dzwierzynski — “You knew once Frank made that pass to Devonte’, the ball wasn’t going to go anywhere else. The ball was going to live or die on the wing with him.”
Hanni — “In that moment I thought, ‘Wow, maybe we do have this.’”
Just — “Devonte’ just couldn’t miss at that point ... Nobody could stop him.”
Self, postgame — “We got Landen a layup to start but he just missed it and then Devonte’ made big shots.”
On the next possession, Jackson steals the ball from Phillip and heads down the court with only Adrian to beat. Jackson completes a perfect Eurostep to get by Adrian and lay it in.
After a Kansas defensive stop, chaos rises in the Jayhawk half.
Jackson, laying on the ground, passes to Carlton Bragg, who catches it and looks around before passing to Graham on the left wing. Graham comes down with it, dribbles behind his back from his left to his right and immediately back to his left and without hesitation pulls up with Miles crowding him. The ball hits nothing but net as Graham heads back down the court with a skip in his step.
Vitale, on ESPN broadcast — “Call the fire chief! This place is on fire!”
Hanni — “I remember the call, ‘He did it again, Devonte’ Graham’ absolutely out of his mind,’ because he was just going off at that point.”
Dzwierzynski — “Cold blooded — and then he skips down the court after being bodied by Miles. That is one of my favorite things I will ever remember from being at Allen Fieldhouse.”
Self, postgame — “We needed him, he is our best three-point shooter off the bounce. He made a heck of a move to make a three there in overtime when he put on a little dribbling show and knocked it down.”
After giving up a three, Mason takes the ball down the court and is fouled. He makes both free throws to make it an 82-78 game to the Jayhawks. After forcing a stop on the defensive end, Lucas is fouled and steps up to the line. Lucas misses both free throws, and the rebound off the second attempt goes to Adrian, but the ball goes right through Adrian’s hands and out of bounds.
Dzwierzynski — “Adrian has the biggest miscue you could imagine in the moment and the least likely to do it. Senior from Morgantown, he is the heart and soul of the West Virginia team.
Vitale, on ESPN broadcast — “I can’t believe that! The magic of the Phog has raised its head big time”
On the inbound, Jackson throws the inbounds pass over the head of Mason and into the hands of Phillip. Phillip breaks away but misses the layup. Adrian is there to dunk the rebound for West Virginia, making it 82-80 Kansas.
Dzwierzynski — “The throwaway by Josh almost hurt more because you just got a free possession. All you need to do is get the ball to Frank or Devonte’ and he throws it away. But it was too little too late.”
Self, postgame — “The only thing we didn’t do well in overtime, it’s my fault, was getting the ball inbounds when you’re up six. I said the last thing you do is throw the ball to half-court and we did.”
On the inbound, Mason collects the ball and is fouled by Phillip. Stepping up to the line, Mason ices the game, sinks both free throws and makes it 84-80. On West Virginia’s final possession, Lamont West has his desperation three blocked by freshman forward Mitch Lightfoot. Mason collects the ball and tosses it in the air as the buzzer sounds. Kansas had completed one of the craziest comebacks in Allen Fieldhouse history.
All interviews were done specifically with the Kansan unless otherwise noted.