Morgantown, WV (Sports Network) - The Kansas Jayhawks will attempt to extend the nation's longest active winning streak on Monday night, as they have made the trek to Morgantown for a Big 12 Conference showdown with the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Since losing to nationally-ranked Michigan State on Nov. 13 (67-64), Kansas has ripped off 17 straight victories to climb to 18-1 overall and a perfect 6-0 in Big 12 action. The program has grown accustomed to this kind of success under head coach Bill Self, as it has started 18-1 or better five times in the coach's 10-year tenure, including three times in the past four seasons. The Jayhawks most recently took care of business at home against Oklahoma on Saturday, 67-54.
WVU has had a rocky road in its first run as a member of the Big 12, the team currently sitting with a lackluster 9-10 record. The Mountaineers have been especially shaky in recent weeks. With Saturday's loss at Oklahoma State (80-66) being the most recent, they club has dropped four of its last five to fall to 2-4 in conference play.
These newly-formed conference foes are meeting for the first time on Monday night.
Kansas has certainly seen better days shooting the ball than it showed on Saturday, as it boasted rather modest percentages from the field (.436) and the foul line (.632), but it was able to cruise to the double-digit win by holding Oklahoma to a 35.6 shooting effort. Ben McLemore was stellar in the triumph with 18 points and seven rebounds, Jeff Withey added 13 points, nine boards, four blocks and three steals, and Travis Releford chipped in with 10 points and five assists. On the season, the Jayhawks are one of just two teams in the conference to rank in the top-four in both scoring offense (74.6 ppg) and scoring defense (58.8 ppg), resulting in a league-best scoring margin of +15.8. Sparking the squad offensively is McLemore, who shoots 51 percent from the field (including 45.6 percent from 3-point range) for 16.2 ppg, second- most in the league. In addition to posting 13.0 ppg and 8.4 rpg, Withey is one of the nation's elite interior defenders, blocking 4.3 shots per contest. Releford (12.7 ppg), Elijah Johnson (9.5 ppg, 4.8 apg), and Kevin Young (7.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg) fill out one of the most well-rounded starting lineups in the country.
The Mountaineers actually led their contest against Oklahoma State over the weekend late in the first half, but the Cowboys got hot at the end of the opening frame and kept that momentum going after intermission as they handed WVU the 14-point loss. Eron Harris was on point from 3-point range in the setback, draining 5-of-8 perimeter shots for 17 points, while Deniz Kilicli (12 points, two blocks) and Aaric Murray (11 points, 10 rebounds) were also effective in defeat. WVU has not had the balance it had hoped for this season, as it ranks eighth in the Big 12 in both scoring offense (67.2 ppg) and scoring defense (66.7 ppg), while ranking last in field goal percentage (.395). The squad pulls off the rare feat of not having a single double-digit scorer on the roster, but it does benefit from having seven players net at least 7.1 ppg. Murray is both the team's leading scorer (9.6 ppg) and rebounder (6.7 rpg), while Juwan Staten (9.6 ppg) adds 3.1 apg and 1.3 spg.