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Moments That Popped: No. 3 Kansas at West Virginia

Highlights and lowlights from KU's loss in Morgantown

5 min read
KU point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. looks for an opening during the Jayhawks' loss at West Virginia on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. [Kansas Athletics photo]

It had been a while since the Kansas Jayhawks saw a court-storming in Morgantown, West Virginia. But it probably didn’t feel like it.

Not when “Country Roads” is blaring.

Third-ranked Kansas suffered its second road loss of the Big 12 season on Saturday afternoon, falling 91-85 at WVU. The Mountaineers moved to 7-11 overall and 2-3 in Big 12 play while knocking Kansas to 15-3 and 3-2.

KU had won six in a row over WVU and had not lost in Morgantown since 2021. But those streaks are over.

The Jayhawks got out to a blazing hot start and things looked super easy for the road team in the early going. But things are rarely easy in Morgantown, and the Mountaineers quickly caught fire and made Kansas uncomfortable — both on the court and the scoreboard — the rest of the afternoon.

Next up, the Jayhawks will return home for the first of three Big Monday appearances this season. Tipoff against Big 12 newcomer Cincinnati is slated for 8 p.m. central time on ESPN from Allen Fieldhouse.

Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable moments from Saturday afternoon in Morgantown.


• Timberlake’s spark: During a particularly scary stretch in the first half when the Jayhawks had starters Dajuan Harris Jr., Kevin McCullar Jr. and Hunter Dickinson on the bench at the same time, it was the slumping senior transfer from Towson who delivered on the offensive end for the Jayhawks. Timberlake, whose KU career high prior to Saturday was 13 points in a home win over Yale, scored 12 points in the first half to help KU keep pace with a scorching WVU squad. R1S1 Sports recently caught up with Timberlake to break down what he’s done to stay positive despite the rough start to his KU career.

• Johnny Furphy’s confidence: You’ve read about it, talked about it & even seen it with your own eyes. But there it was making a huge impact in Saturday’s game in Morgantown in the first few minutes. Furphy, who is still growing & improving by the way, just looks so comfortable shooting the ball right now. Almost like getting knows it’s going in before he even catches it. The young Australian made his first three 3-pointers on Saturday — while also contributing to KU’s first 13 points — but finished just 3-of-9 from 3-point range and 4-of-12 overall after those three early makes. His late mistakes (see below) were certainly a reminder that he’s still very young and has a long way to go, but his offense is going to be key for this Kansas team.

• McCullar plays smart on D: Forget about the fact that he played a good chunk of the first half with 2 fouls without picking up his third — never an easy thing to do — McCullar also had a couple of huge defensive stretches early in the second half that took advantage of his experience, poise and IQ, picking up two charges while being one step ahead of the West Virginia offensive player each time. Not only did the plays force WVU turnovers, but they also helped McCullar avoid that third foul until the 13:31 mark of the second half.

• Halftime tie: Say what you will about celebrating a tie game at the break, but there was reason to do just that on Saturday afternoon. After all, the Mountaineers were red hot in the first half — particularly from 3-point range — with the home team hitting 9 of 14 3-point tries in the first half and wing Raequan Battle exploding for 17 first-half points. To still be tied at 51 all even with numbers like that stacked against you was an indication of how well Kansas played offensively. Now, giving up 51 first-half points was a whole other concern entirely.  

KU big man Hunter Dickinson moves to the basket during the Jayhawks' loss at West Virginia on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. [Kansas Athletics photo]


• 3-point defense: You didn’t even have to watch to see if the 3-point shots West Virginia hoisted up went in to see how Kansas coach Bill Self felt about his team’s 3-point defense. You’ve heard Self say on a bunch of occasions that whether the ball goes in or not is not what determines whether it was a good shot. Same thing goes for KU’s 3-point defense. Even if the shots had missed — and most of them didn’t, by the away — the lack of quality close-outs and ease with which the Mountaineers got their looks from downtown was definitely an issue.

• Late-game execution on both ends: On one possession, McCullar threw a pass behind an in-between roll by KJ Adams for just KU’s sixth turnover of the day and another possession for the Mountaineers with WVU leading by 1 with around a minute to play. On the next possession, WVU got an offensive rebound off of a late-shot-clock miss when Furphy failed to box out his man, preserving yet another possession for the home team. And on the very next possession, Furphy missed a block-out again, giving up yet another WVU offensive rebound. Same thing happened on the free throw line from there. The first mistake was by a senior. The next three were by a freshman. None of them were acceptable and all four really hurt KU’s chances of getting out of Morgantown with a win.


• Dickinson rebounding woes: The KU big man, who scored 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting, grabbed just 5 rebounds in the loss. His season-low for rebounds came in the loss at UCF when he recorded just four. It might not be the most obvious nor the most critical stat, as long as other Jayhawks are helping clean up the glass in the big man’s place. But it’s worth noting that there may be some kind of correlation between his sub-par rebounding games and KU’s struggles.

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