January 28, 2013

KU escapes Morgantown

No. 2/1 Kansas (19-1, 7-0) took on West Virginia (9-11, 2-5) for the first time in front of a packed house in Morgantown, WV., and escaped with a 61-56 victory on Big Monday.

Once again the Jayhawks weren't crisp on offense, turning the ball over at an alarming rate during a stretch in the first half after going up 15, but Jeff Withey and Co., made plays when it counted and continued their usual stellar defense and esc aped their first visit to West Virginia with a win.

After opening up a 10-2 lead, Kansas appeared to be on their way to their first blowout win since a Big Monday victory over Baylor earlier in conference play.

To Bill Self's disgust, his team seemed to flip the switch in the wrong direction and turned the ball over on four straight possessions late in the first half to let the Mountaineers back in the game.

KU gave up seemingly turnover after turnover on bad perimeter passes, most of which were due to flat-out laziness.

WVU hit a driving layup to end the first half and get the lead under 10 heading into the break, earning what more than likely was an intense halftime speech from Self.

Jeff Withey, who scored 13 points in the first half, finished with 15 for the game to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 blocks.

Fellow senior Travis Releford matched Withey's 15 points, none more important than a late three in front of the KU bench late in the second half to extend Kansas' lead and essentially kill West Virginia's momentum

Aaric Murray scored 17 points for WVU, hitting 3-of-5 from three-point range. Jeff Withey couldn't get out on the big man which led Self to put Kevin Young and Perry Ellis on him in order to take away his outside shooting.

West Virginia's big men dealt with foul trouble nearly the entire night, yet Kansas was never able to really establish low-post dominance and take it to Bob Huggins' team on the blocks. Huggins has yet to defeat Kansas during his coaching career.

With Murray limited in the second half, sophomore Juwan Staten took over from the guard spot, knocking down pull up jumpers and driving to the basket against Kansas' pressure defense.

The Mountaineers had their best performance of the season, not surprising against the newly crowned No. 1 team in the country (Coaches Poll).

For Kansas, they must still look to their offensive efficiency as a source of concern moving forward. The good teams will win games when they don't play well, but KU seems to be falling into that trap each time out.

Offensively, the Jayhawks have work to do, but continue to make the plays when needed.

Ben McLemore scored 13 points for Kansas but was saddled with early foul trouble and was quiet until late in the second half, much like he has done throughout the year; making plays when the Jayhawks need it the most.

Despite 16 turnovers, KU still held WVU to 37-percent shooting from the field and outrebounded the Mountaineers 34-25 on the night.

Up next for Kansas is a home game against Oklahoma State on Saturday.

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