Blame West Virginia for shooting just 2 free throws against Kans - KCTV5

Blame West Virginia for shooting just 2 free throws against Kansas

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FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, file photo, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins screams directions to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson, File) FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, file photo, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins screams directions to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson, File)
(KCTV) -

Forget Kansas' 19-3 run to close out a comeback win against West Virginia. Forget Udoka Azubuike's team-high 21 points on 7-8 shooting. 

These numbers have taken a backseat in favor of another set: 35-2.

Kansas shot 35 free throws. West Virginia shot two. It's Kansas' largest free throw advantage ever against a Big 12 opponent. And it left Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins in disbelief.

"I've been doing this 40 years," Huggins said, shortly after being ejected for arguing with game officials. "I don't think I've ever been in a game where we shot two free throws."

Huggins' rant against the referees has made the rounds on Twitter, in which he noted his frustration with the officials has been mounting all season. But clearly, the two-free-throw-attempt performance against Kansas sent him over the edge. It was the first thing he mentioned when he stepped to the mic.

So how does a team go an entire forty minutes and shoot just two free throws?

Allen Fieldhouse home cooking, perhaps? Huggins isn't the first coach this season to complain about officiating after a loss in Lawrence. Bruce Weber did the same thing. But as much as you'd like to sit there and chalk the gigantic free throw disparity up to favoritism, the tape suggests otherwise.

I went back and watched every West Virginia possession. We'll get to the non-calls, because while there were a few that Huggins had a right to dislike, his team hardly helped its own charity stripe cause.

More Passive Than Aggressive

To get to the free throw line, you have to draw fouls. West Virginia isn't about that life; they shoot more than they drive. Of their 61 field goal attempts, 46 came from outside the paint: 26 three-point attempts and twenty 2-point jump shots (Note: KU shot two 2-point jump shots). The Mountaineers made seven shots in the paint. KU doubled that, with fourteen makes.

West Virginia's best post presence, Sag Konate, took ten shots. Seven of them came outside the paint. Udoka Azubuike wouldn't dream of doing the same.

The Mountaineer guards, led by Jevon Carter, were quick to drive but equally as quick to pull up or turn around. Credit KU's defense for that; they closed and cut off drivers effectively.

Types of Turnovers

West Virginia turned the ball over thirteen times - and it was how they turned it over that prevented more attempts in the lane (and therefore, more attempts to get to the free throw line). 

Eleven of West Virginia's thirteen turnovers came either while in the lane or trying to pass the ball inside. Seven of the thirteen turnovers were failed post-entry passes, most coming from Carter or Daxter Miles, who spoiled multiple chances to shoot late in the game by passing down low to unsuspecting teammates. Even as West Virginia tried to get the ball down low, they got in their own way.

A Lovely Technicality

The Mountaineers should have taken three free-throws, but Miles committed a lane violation during his own missed attempt, removing it from the total. This is the part where West Virginia fans reading this may want to send me hate mail. Understandable.

The Non-Calls

Here we are: The foul calls that Huggins probably thinks the Mountaineers should have gotten but did not. 

I counted eight opportunities where contact was made and no foul was whistled. Keep in mind: That is a pretty low number, and some of these are me reaching a little. 

(And for those saying KU got more whistles, let's keep this in mind, too: West Virginia is a foul-heavy team and in many cases could have been called for more fouls on Saturday. Huggins' chief complaint appeared to be his own team's lack of attempts, so that's where the focus remains.)

First Half:

Lagerald Vick made some contact with the shoulder, but not much. My opinion: No foul.

Azubuike connects with the body, but it's not horizontal so much as it is vertical. My opinion: No foul.

Mitch Lightfoot holds his ground pretty well. My opinion: No foul.

That is *three* opportunities in the first half to call fouls when the referees did not. The Mountaineers shot zero free throws. They didn't help themselves in the first half at all.

Second Half:

The referees call the foul, but claim it was on the drive and therefore no free throws. I think it was in one motion, so my opinion: Foul and free throws.

Esa Ahmad the victim again. Malik Newman gets a little too much in his grill. My opinion: Foul and free throws.

The Mountaineers took exception to Mitch Lightfoot falling down on Sag Konate during his layup attempt. My opinion: No foul.

Azubuike gets Konate on the arm. This was a miss. My opinion: Foul and free throws.

The no-call that left Huggins steaming mad and led to his ejection. I know what I tweeted, but upon further review, it looks like the elbow made contact with the ball and not the face. My opinion: No foul.

In Conclusion:

There is a case to be made that West Virginia could have gone to the line a few more times. And if we are being extremely picky, Huggins may wonder if KU got away with a few hand-checks that could have led to the Mountaineers eventually shooting in the bonus.

Again: Pot, meet kettle. West Virginia will be the second-most-physical team on the floor when it faces Jerry Sloan's 1997 Utah Jazz.

Ultimately, I believe the total in question - an additional three trips to the line - is something you see in every basketball game, no? One could argue KU deserved at least three more trips to the line, too. Home court advantage in any gym typically yields a number like this.

Huggins had a right to be angry near the end when he eventually got tossed, there's no doubting that. But when he goes back to watch the tape, he must agree his team can do plenty more to earn trips to the free throw line. 

The referees can always be better. So can the coach and the players.

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