No. 7 West Virginia men’s basketball took its first Big 12 loss of the season to third-ranked Kansas, 79-65 at Allen Fieldhouse.
WVU had a one-point lead at halftime, but an explosion in the second half by Kansas helped the Jayhawks exploit a stagnant Mountaineer offense to nab a victory.
Sean McNeil was on fire in the first half, making all of his field goals (including six three-pointers) to tally a career-high 20 points.
McNeil was the brightest spot in a tough half for the Mountaineer offense. Besides his seven makes, WVU made just six shots for a 41.9 percent rate.
The Jayhawk offense seemed to struggle just the same early on. Marcus Garrett, Christian Braun and Ochai Agbaji each chipped in eight points to lead Kansas in the first half, most of which came from deep.
WVU held a rebounding advantage in the first half, but Kansas was able to get more out of their offensive boards with 12 second chance points — a premonition of the second half.
McNeil’s strong offensive play ground to a halt after the break, going 1-for-5 in the last period of play to finish with 22 points.
On the flip side, Braun and Jalen Wilson took right off for Kansas. The former scored 14 second-half points to finish with 22, whereas Wilson added 11 in the half to finish with 17.
“Honestly they just hit big shots when they needed to,” McBride said. “We were coming up with empty possessions.”
Kansas took the rebounding advantage in the second half with strong play on the offensive glass — even grabbing multiple offensive boards in single possessions.
“Very rarely when you are on defense does the ball hit the rim and bounce to you….they beat us to every loose ball,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins.
David McCormack was a major factor in this facet, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds — six of which came on offense.
Foul trouble was again an issue for West Virginia as well, however the biggest culprit in this contest was McBride. He sat on the bench for a significant part of the second half with four fouls, while Oscar Tshiebwe and Gabe Osabuohien finished with three each.
Tshiebwe finished with three points — a continuation of a slow start to his sophomore season.
“He’s not as physical, and he’s not running like he did a year ago,” Huggins said. “I think he’ll change, I think he’ll snap out of it.”
The loss moves West Virginia to 7-2 on the season, with a 1-1 mark in the Big 12. Kansas improves to 8-1 overall, with a 2-0 conference record. WVU’s next clash is on Jan. 2 at Oklahoma, with a tip time yet to be announced.