MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–After knocking off the then-15th-ranked Baylor Bears and then-No. 1 Oklahoma’s loss to Kansas State, the 10th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers were sitting alone at the top of the Big 12 standings.
WVU (19-4, 8-2 Big 12) now controls its own destiny at taking away the Big 12 crown from the reigning 11 time conference champion Kansas. But five teams are right there on the Mountaineers’ heels waiting for their chance to be on top.
On Tuesday night, WVU travels to Lawrence to face off against the sixth ranked Jayhawks (19-4, 7-3).
The Mountaineers beat Kansas 74-63 in Morgantown on Jan. 12 and have a one-game lead in the conference standings.
It was WVU’s third win in their last four meetings with Kansas. The Jayhawks haven’t been swept in a home-and-home series since Iowa State did so in 2000-01 and have won 38 straight at Allen Fieldhouse.
But the Mountaineers are no strangers to pulling off the win on the road in tough venues. Last week they traveled to Ames and rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat then-No. 13 Iowa State 81-76.
Since losing in Morgantown last month, Kansas has gone 5-2 with key wins over TCU, Kentucky, Texas and Kansas State. The Jayhawks have won their last three games by a combined 37 points.
On Saturday, Kansas pounded TCU 75-56 in Fort Worth. The Jayhawks out rebounded the Horned Frogs 45-26.
Perry Ellis scored 23 points and 10 rebounds while going 11 of 14 from the floor. The 6-foot-8 senior forward is averaging 16.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game this season. Over the last five games, he has shot 63 percent.
Wayne Selden Jr. averages 14.5 points per game. Frank Mason III averages 13 and Devonte Graham averages 10.7 points.
WVU leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage at 42.3. The Mountaineers’ smothering pressure defense was a factor in last month’s win. WVU leads the nation with 10.3 steals and 19.0 turnovers forced.
The Jayhawks turned the ball over 22 times and the Mountaineers had 12 steals the last time the two teams met.
This week’s Big 12 Player of the Week, Jaysean Paige, is WVU’s weapon off the bench. The senior guard is averaging 14.2 points per game.
Against Baylor, Paige scored 17 points and shot 57 percent from the field, including 50 percent from beyond the arc, while making all six free throw attempts.
Devin Williams leads the conference with 10 double-doubles. After slumping for a few games, the junior forward is back on track. Williams scored 16 points against Baylor.
Daxter Miles Jr. got back on track with a sizzling performance against Baylor on Saturday. The sophomore guard scored 20 points, connecting on 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Nathan Adrian will likely start in place of senior forward Jonathan Holton, who is still likely suspended for a violation of team rules. Adrian has played well over his last four starts. He tallied 11 points against the Bears.
This is the eighth meeting between the two teams. Kansas leads the series 4-3.
Last year when the Mountaineers traveled to Lawrence they blew an 18-point lead and lost 76-69 in overtime.
The Jayhawks have won three straight games. The Jayhawks are 13-0 at home this season.
Tuesday’s game will mark Bob Huggins’ 300th game as WVU’s coach. Only Gale Catlett (720 games) has coached more games.
Huggins needs two wins to tie Lefty Drisell for ninth on the all-time wins list.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.