And as he spun past KU point guard Frank Mason to get to the rim for an open layup with just seconds left on the clock to lift the Mountaineers to a 62-61 victory, Staten was able to bask in the glory and lead the celebration as WVU fans stormed the floor to celebrate a huge, potentially season-changing, victory at the Coliseum.
“Everybody comes back for the big moments,” Staten said. “You don’t decide to come back to school to blow teams out or to get blown out. You come back for the games that go down to the wire where everybody’s watching and you have a chance to make a name for yourself.”
“Ultimately, our back was against the wall a little bit. We had lost three out of four … We needed this one.”
Staten’s big shot was the biggest in a series of clutch buckets that helped the Mountaineers continue to battle back from a five-point deficit with a little more than three minutes left in the game. That stretch included two makes from beyond the arc from freshman Jevon Carter that gave West Virginia the lead heading down the stretch.
Mason scored to give the Jayhawks the advantage before the two teams struggled to convert on opportunities, highlighted by two misses by Staten, a miss by Nathan Adrian and a couple missed chances by Kansas to extend the lead that helped set the stage for Staten’s late-game heroics.
“We wanted to turn this game into one of the games that we were used to,” Staten said. “We watched a lot of film on them and they haven’t had many games where they really had to grind it out, they play at their pace. We knew if we could turn this into an ugly game we would come out on top because those are the games that we’re used to.”
The Mountaineers got out to a nice lead early on, disrupting Kansas’ offensive flow with the press. West Virginia forced four turnovers in the first five minutes of the game and started out on an 8-0 run to force KU head coach Bill Self to call his first timeout of the game.
But although WVU led and had control of the momentum for much of the first half, the Jayhawks refused to go away in the opening period, battling back to cutting the deficit to a one-possession game with more than five minutes left before entering the locker room thanks to a 10-2 run sparked by freshman forward Kelly Oubre.
Kansas quickly jumped into the driver’s seat as the Mountaineers appeared to be a bit dazed, just 48 hours after a 20-point loss at the hands of Iowa State sent them further into a slide in which they had dropped three of their last four games.
After trailing by three points at the half, KU led by seven within the first 2:15 of the final 20 minutes. That quick KU start was led by senior forward Perry Ellis, who made three quick shots to get the Jayhawks on a 10-0 run to kick off the half.
“We went harder than we’ve been going in a short turnaround,” said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins. “We had a lot of bounce in our step. We decided to go harder in the short term because the other way wasn’t working.”
The win gave the Mountaineers their 20th win of the season and improved their Big 12 Conference record to 8-5 and make it look even clearer that this WVU team will make it back to the NCAA tournament after a two-year hiatus.
“The whole point (now) is to have a higher seed in the tournament,” Huggins said. “The only way this was like an NCAA tournament game is because we only had one day in between.”
Carter was the only other Mountaineer to finish in double figures, scoring 13 points and grabbing six rebounds. Junior forward Jonathan Holton added five points with nine rebounds – including six on the offensive end.
KU was led Ellis’ 19 points and five rebounds while Mason had 18 points. Oubre was the only other Jayhawk in double figures, finishing the game with 14 points and seven boards.