Kansas at West Virginia
The Big 12 is atop the national conference RPI rankings, and four ranked teams currently share the lead with 4-1 records. Two of those four clash in an ESPN Big Monday matchup as No. 2 West Virginia hosts No. 12 Kansas.
The Mountaineers entered last weekend with the nation’s longest win streak with 15 straight victories, but saw an 11-point lead slip away in the final 13 minutes of Saturday’s 72-71 road loss to No. 8 Texas Tech. Guard Javon Carter scored a game-high 28 points and junior forward Esa Ahmad, playing his first game of the season since returning from an academic suspension, added 18 points and six rebounds off the bench, but it wasn’t enough to keep Bob Huggins’ team alone atop the conference standings. “We just had guys (who) were really out of character,” Huggins said in his post-game news conference. “We’ve got our center shooting whatever that was, a 3-pointer from the top of the key. We just did a lot of things out of character from what we normally do.” Kansas, meanwhile, has taken an a slightly different route to its share of the Big 12 lead, losing its second conference contest (85-73 to Texas Tech) and then reeling off three straight wins, with the latest being Saturday’s 73-72 victory over visiting Kansas State.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT KANSAS (14-3, 4-1 Big 12): Each of the Jayhawks’ last three wins have been hard-fought, nip-and-tuck affairs and have been decided by a combined total of 10 points. Senior guard Devonte’ Graham scored a game-high 23 points vs. the Wildcats – his ninth straight in double figures – and continues to pace the team and rank second in the conference with his average of 18.4 per contest. Guards Saviatoslav Mykhailiuk (16.5) and Lagerald Vick (14.9), center Udoka Azubuike (14.8) and guard Malik Newman (10.7) also are averaging double figures for Kansas, which is leading the Big 12 in field-goal (51.0) and 3-point (41.5) percentage.
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (15-2, 4-1): Carter’s 28 points Saturday were just one off his career high and was a strong bounce-back outing for the senior who scored only eight in last Tuesday’s 57-54 win over Baylor. Overall, Carter is averaging 16.8 points and a team-high 6.5 assists and is joined in double figures by guard Daxter Miles Jr. (13.2) and forward Lamont West (12.3) and, of course, Ahmad after his 18-point season debut. The Mountaineers pace the conference in steals (9.9) and turnovers forced (19.9) but had only five and 13, respectively, against Texas Tech.
1. Kansas has won seven of the 11 meetings since West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, but the Mountaineers are 4-1 in Morgantown, including an 85-69 win last season.
2. Jayhawks freshman F Silvio De Sousa made his collegiate debut Saturday after being cleared academically by the NCAA, and he had a foul and a turnover in four minutes off the bench.
3. When Texas Tech fans rushed the court following Saturday’s win, video clips posted online appear to show an unidentified West Virginia player throwing a punch at a fan near the Mountaineers’ bench so disciplinary measures likely are forthcoming.