LAWRENCE, Kan. — LAWRENCE, Kan. — Senior forward Tarik Black found his point guard right before he hit the ground, dishing off his offensive board in time for Naadir Tharpe to hit Wayne Selden, Jr. Ready and waiting, Selden knocked down the three-pointer that speared the final stretch of No. 8/9 Kansas’ 83-69 win against West Virginia Saturday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse.
West Virginia (14-10, 6-5 Big 12) never lost its fight, cutting the game to four points with five minutes to play, but a 7-0 late Kansas run put the Mountaineers away for good. Ten games through the Big 12 Conference season, Kansas (18-5, 9-1 Big 12) took a two-game lead in the league race with the win.
Black showed his specialty as a game changer, coming off the bench with 11 points on 3-of-3 shooting, four rebounds and drew a charge. Sophomore forward Jamari Traylor, seemingly cut from the same cloth, also made the most of his minutes with seven points and a pair of steals.
The starters also had plenty to say about Saturday’s decision. Freshman guard Andrew Wiggins set the tone with 19 points, including 7-for-10 from the line. Selden was right behind him with 17 points, including a 3-of-5 from three-point territory. For the second-straight game freshman center Joel Embiid waited till the second half to notch his first points, but that didn’t deter the seven-footer from chalking up his sixth double-double of the year with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Embiid’s three blocks puts him at 60 for the season and just two shy of the KU freshman record (Eric Chenowith, 62, 1998).
Squaring off against two of the Big 12’s top-three leading scorers in WVU’s Juwan Staten and Eron Harris, the Kansas defense had its work cut out for them. The duo tallied 22 of West Virginia’s 36 first-half points, and went on to account for nearly half of the team’s point total with 22 and 17 points, respectively. Aside from his status as the second-best scorer in the league, Staten also leads his Big 12 counterparts in assists – but didn’t on Saturday. Freshman guard Frank Mason led the floor with five assists and no turnovers.
Not one to cough up the ball often, West Virginia committed its season average for turnovers per game (9.7) in the first half alone and finished the afternoon with 14, just two off of its season high. Meanwhile, an aggressive KU team recorded fewer turnovers than its opponent (12) for just the second time this conference season.
An inbounds play setup to end in a Wiggins slam worked with total precision, one of several close-range baskets the Jayhawks chalked up in the early goings. Traylor joined him, spinning in a nifty reverse layup before Black executed a three-point play just seconds after checking in, to put KU up 15-10.
Then Harris happened. He connected on three-straight threes to force a 9-0 run in less than 90 seconds, swinging the lead to the visitors, 20-17. Spurred by the hot streak, KU rolled off four buckets in four possessions by four different players and efficiently reclaimed the advantage, 25-22. Back-and-forth scoring resumed, but was largely led by the Harris-Staten partnership, who had 20 of the Mountaineers’ 30 points 15 minutes into the game.
On the flipside, Kansas’ scoring resembled near perfect balance. Black slammed his first dunk with less than five minutes till halftime. He, Traylor, Wiggins and Selden all took turns as KU’s leading scorer as halftime drew closer. When Brannen Greene fired off a three-pointer in the last possession of the half, Wiggins’ flight toward the basket ensured the ball wouldn’t hit the ground. His put-back slam sent the Jayhawks to the locker room with a 43-36 lead.
Embiid joined the party in the second half. After not scoring in the opening 20 minutes, he tallied his first points faster than during Tuesday’s trip to Baylor with a layup at the 18:07 mark. His scoring intro only slightly offset the 8-3 run that the visitors used to start the second half. Freshman forward Nathan Adrian, who went scoreless in the first half, knocked down a three-pointer to cut the Kansas lead to two and prompt a Bill Self timeout, leading 46-44.
Though West Virginia kept pushing back, the lead changes ceased. Kansas worked around a dismal 2-for-9 shooting start in the second half, making its trips to the line count. Layups from Embiid and Mason were the lone buckets the Jayhawks made through the first nine minutes, but the Jayhawks patched the droughts with a 10-for-11 effort at the free throw line to maintain its slim lead.
Wiggins broke the dry spell with a layup, but the Jayhawks still lacked their first jumper of the half. This time the wait would be short. Black battled for an offensive board. Falling, he dished the ball behind him to Tharpe in time for the point guard to locate a wide-open Selden, who honored the team effort with KU’s first trey of the half.
The Jayhawks were suddenly up nine, 62-53, and stretched it above double-digits with less than eight minutes to play. Determined to keep the Jayhawks within striking distance, West Virginia chipped at the lead to prevent KU from breaking free.
The Mountaineers held off the inevitable as long as they could, but a Tharpe three-pointer and jumper by Selden saw the Jayhawks take its largest lead of the game as they settled in for the 83-69 win.
Kansas will play at Kansas State on its third of four ESPN Big Mondays on Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. The Jayhawks will host TCU on Saturday, Feb. 15, at 3 p.m. on the Big 12 Television Network and then travel to Texas Tech on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
#8/9 KANSAS 83, WEST VIRGINIA 69
Feb. 8, 2014
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): Jr. Naadir Tharpe (20/20), Fr. Wayne Selden, Jr. (23/23), Fr. Andrew Wiggins (23/23), So. Perry Ellis (23/26), Fr. Joel Embiid (15/15)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads 3-0
ATTENDANCE: 16,300 (208th consecutive sellout)
· Improved KU to 18-5 on the season, against the nation’s most difficult strength of schedule.
· Made Kansas 9-1 in Big 12 play for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
· Kept the Jayhawks undefeated in three meetings with West Virginia, including two double-digit wins inside Allen Fieldhouse.
· Was the Jayhawks’ 111th straight win against unranked opponents inside Allen Fieldhouse dating back to the 2006-07 season.
· Made KU 10-1 in Allen Fieldhouse this season, 171-9 under Bill Self and 709-109 all-time in the venue.
· Made Bill Self 3-0 all-time against WVU, and dropped Mountaineers’ head coach Bob Huggins to 0-7 against Kansas.
· Improved Bill Self to 318-64 while at Kansas and 525-169 overall.
· Made KU 2,119-817 all-time.
· The Jayhawks’ 81.5 scoring average through the first 10 games of league play is its highest since averaging 83.3 points through the first 10 Big 12 games in 2010-11.
· Kansas is used to getting its opponent’s best shot, but during the 2013-14 season the Jayhawks have also hit several teams at their hottest moment, including West Virginia. Eleven of KU’s 23 opponents entered their match-up with Kansas with at least three consecutive wins. Kansas has ended seven of those streaks, including two of double digits (Toledo – 12; K-State – 10).
· The Jayhawks chalked up 46 of their points from the paint, their highest total of the conference season and the most since scoring 50 in the paint against Toledo (12/30).
· Junior G Naadir Tharpe didn’t knock it down, but he launched KU’s first three-point attempt with 7:22 to play in the first half. That was the longest Kansas has gone this season without a try from long range. The Jayhawks have put up at least one three in the first five minutes in 18 of 23 games this season, and only twice – including Saturday and against Towson (11:18) – have gone longer than 10 minutes without launching a triple try.
· The Jayhawks made just four threes in the game, three from freshman G Wayne Selden, Jr. and a late triple from Tharpe, to tie the team’s lowest total in Big 12 play. KU shot 28.6 percent (4-for-14) from long range in the game, the team’s worst clip since before conference action began.
· A game’s first 20 minutes has been a pretty good indicator of potential KU success this season. Kansas led 43-36 at the break Saturday and improved to 16-0 when taking an advantage into halftime.
· The Jayhawks forced nine West Virginia turnovers in the first half, just short of the Mountaineers’ season average for an entire game (9.7). WVU ended the contest with 14 turnovers, which tied for its third-most of the year.
· Kansas used the turnovers and stiff defense to hold West Virginia to 48 shot attempts, a Mountaineer season-low and the fewest by a Jayhawk opponent this season.
· WVU used a spark from Eron Harris, who made three-straight, three-pointers on a personal 9-0 run that spanned 1:22 near the midpoint of the first half. Harris went 0-for-5 from beyond the arc for the rest of the game.
· Kansas made just two field goals in the first nine minutes of the second half, a lay-up by Joel Embiid (18:07) and another from Frank Mason (14:00). During that stretch the Jayhawks went 2-for-9 from the field and saw WVU pull within four, 57-53.
· The Jayhawks hit four of the next five buckets over the next four minutes to extend the lead to double figures and a then-game-high 12 (68-56) after a Perry Ellis dunk with 7:20 to play.
· KU led by as many as 15 points with 1:35 to play in the game and finished with a 14-point edge. Kansas has won 13 games by double figures this season.
· Kansas recognized the 40th anniversary of the 1974 KU Final Four team at a media timeout in the first half. Head coach Ted Owens, staff and players were on hand for the weekend. Led by All-Big Eight Conference guard Tom Kivisto, Kansas went 23-7 overall and won the Big Eight regular-season title with a 13-1 conference record.
· Freshman G Andrew Wiggins led the Jayhawks with 19 points, narrowly missing the eighth 20-point game of his career. Wiggins has led Kansas in scoring in 10 of the team’s 23 games.
· Wiggins shot less than 43 percent from the field for the third-straight game, but used seven free throws to give Kansas a boost. Wiggins was 7-for-10 from the line, all in the second half.
· In the last six games, Wiggins has tried double-digit free throw attempts three different times.
· Freshman G Wayne Selden, Jr., chipped in 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting including three from beyond the three-point line. It was the wing’s 10th game in double figures, including four of the last five contests.
· Freshman G Frank Mason led the Jayhawks with five assists and was followed closely by Tharpe with four. Mason has a 2.63:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in league games, just shy of Tharpe’s 2.94:1 rate. For the season, Tharpe has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.69:1.
· Senior F Tarik Black scored 11 points, eight before halftime, for his second-highest output as a Jayhawk. Black finished a perfect 3-for-3 from the field, one of two Jayhawks to do so Saturday.
· Black logged 21 minutes after playing 23 in Tuesday’s game against Baylor, a total of 44 minutes after playing 48 in his previous five appearances combined.
· Freshman C Joel Embiid scored 11 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. The big man has 40 rebounds in his last four games and 85 during Big 12 play, for an average of 8.5 per game. Embiid has six double-doubles this season and three since the start of Big 12 play.
· Embiid swatted three shots against West Virginia to move to an even 60 blocks on the season, just two behind Eric Chenowith (62, 1998) for the Kansas freshman blocks record.
· Embiid now has a blocked shot in 17-straight games.