Lawrence, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - The eighth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks return to the friendly confines of the Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, as they play host to the West Virginia Mountaineers in a key Big 12 matchup.
The nine-time defending Big 12 champions opened up league play with seven straight wins, before suffering a humbling loss at Texas last weekend (81-69). Bill Self's squad earned some distance from that loss, knocking off a tough Baylor squad in Waco three days later (69-52) to move to 8-1 in conference play, still in first place in the Big 12.
Bob Huggins' Mountaineers have stayed within striking distance in conference play, winning three straight and four of their last five games overall. The recent win streak has come against some of the league's elite teams, topping Baylor, Kansas State and most recently, nationally-ranked Oklahoma on Wednesday (91-86 OT). With the win over the Sooners, WVU moved to 14-9 overall and 6-4 in-conference.
Kansas has won both previous meetings with West Virginia. These two teams will close out the regular season against one another on March 8 in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers took an 11-point lead into the break against Oklahoma but allowed the Sooners to come roaring back over the final 20 minutes to set up overtime. West Virginia was able to outlast the visitors to earn the victory. Eron Harris hit a big 3-pointer to tie things up in the waning moments and led the Mountaineers with an impressive 28 points in the win, thanks in large part to six treys. Fellow guard Juwan Staten poured in 20 points, while Terry Henderson finished with 17.
Offensive fireworks are the norm in Morgantown this season, as WVU comes into this game averaging a steady 78.9 ppg. The Mountaineers have also played fundamentally sound basketball, limiting the turnovers to a mere 9.7 per game, while owning a +3.9 turnover margin. Staten and Harris are a potent one-two punch. Staten leads the team in scoring (18.1 ppg) and the conference in assists (137, 6.0 per game). Harris is the resident sniper on the roster, netting 17.5 ppg, with 64 3-pointers to his credit. Henderson rounds out the potent three-guard set with 12.5 ppg.
Kansas shot a steady .463 from the floor compared to a mere .291 for the Bears in the Jayhawks' win over Baylor this week. Naadir Tharpe led the offensive charge for KU, netting 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Andrew Wiggins, who hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to end the first half, finished with 14 points, while Perry Ellis notched a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
A highly efficient squad, Kansas is averaging 79.1 ppg on an impressive .501 shooting from the floor. The team also enjoys a +7.0 rebounding margin, while averaging nearly 16 assists per outing. A young team is anchored by three freshmen in the starting lineup. Wiggins is the big name and he leads the team in scoring at 15.9 ppg. Joel Embiid (10.9 ppg, .616 shooting, 7.6 rpg, 57 blocks) is starting to open the eyes of NBA suitors with his dominance in the paint. Wayne Selden Jr. (10.2 ppg) completes the young trio with sophomore Ellis (13.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) providing another option. Tharpe (9.5 ppg), a junior, rounds out the starting five.