Bob Huggins’ West Virginia basketball team has won four games and lost six against Kansas in his 10 seasons as coach at his alma mater. While certainly competitive in head-to-head matchups, the Mountaineers have been unable to unseat the Jayhawks as Big 12 Conference champs.
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Kansas (22-3, 10-2 Big 12), which leads Baylor (22-3, 9-3) by one game and West Virginia (20-5, 8-4) by two in the league race heading into Monday’s contest at Allen Fieldhouse, has won 12 consecutive league crowns. Huggins thinks he knows the reason for all the success.
“They won 50 some games without losing at home. I think until people start winning in Lawrence, they are still going to have a great chance to win the league,” said Huggins, whose Mountaineers are 0-4 in Lawrence, where KU had a 51-game homecourt win streak snapped by Iowa State on Feb. 4.
ISU’s 92-89 overtime victory was first by a Big 12 team at Allen in 38 games. The Jayhawks last lost consecutive home games in the 1988-89 season, Roy Williams’ first of 15 at KU.
“They’ve got great players and they’ve got a Hall of Fame coach,” Huggins said of KU’s Bill Self. “When you have a Hall of Fame coach, you year after year get lottery picks playing for you. And (when) you are playing in arguably the best venue in college basketball you’ve got a great chance to win.”
The ninth-winningest NCAA Div. I coach (811-326 record in 35 seasons), Huggins directed the Mountaineers to an 85-69 victory over KU on Jan. 24 in Morgantown, W.Va. West Virginia hit 48.3 percent of its shots and 19 of 23 free throws, and won the rebound battle 39-32.
West Virginia had 22 assists on its 29 baskets.
“The big thing is we passed the ball. We did a terrible job of passing the ball before,” Huggins said.
He said the Mountaineers, who had eight turnovers to KU’s 13, followed a winning formula he outlined for his squad at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season.
“I told them in April, we can’t turn it over and we’ve got to make free throws. We did both those things. We play pretty well when we do that,” Huggins said.
Also in the first meeting, West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad exploded for a career-high 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting. KU’s big men countered with a combined four points.
“Anytime you get it handed to you and an opportunity to play the same team, that should be motivation enough. That certainly happened the first time,” Self said.
The Mountaineers at this stage of the season likely need a victory to have a realistic shot at catching the No. 3 Jayhawks in the standings. A victory and WVU would be one game back; a loss and it would be three games.
“I hope our guys approach the West Virginia game like it’s not even part of our league race, that it’s us against them,” Self said. “They whipped us the last time we played. We know we’ve got to be a lot tougher. We’ve got to handle pressure. With a quick turnaround (after Saturday’s 80-79 victory over Texas Tech in Lubbock), you don’t have much time to prepare for that.
“Our guys need to have a good day off their feet (Sunday). We need to get Frank (Mason) healthy (he was ill on Saturday at Tech). We’ve got to play a lot more competitively than the first time we played them,” Self added.
KU committed just nine turnovers on Saturday in Lubbock. The Jayhawks, however, were torched by Tech guards Keenan Evans and Niem Stevenson who scored 25 and 22 points.
KU senior forward Lucas said the Jayhawks must be mentally prepared Monday after an emotional road win.
“We know we’ve got another game coming up against a team that beat us, so we’ve got to take them very seriously and get that home win streak started up again,” Lucas said.
No. 13 West Virginia at No. 3 Kansas
- When: 8 p.m. Monday
- Where: Allen Fieldhouse
- Records: WVU 20-5, 8-4 Big 12; KU 22-3, 10-2
- Radio: 1240-AM, 98.7-FM
- TV: ESPN
West Virginia (20-5, 7-4)): Bob Huggins is 4-10 all-time against KU, including 4-6 as Mountaineers coach.… WVU is 6-1 in its last seven games vs. AP Top 25 teams, with two wins over Nos. 1, one vs. No. 2 and two wins over Nos. 6.
Kansas (22-3, 10-2): The Jayhawks, who lost their last home game to Iowa State, last dropped two straight home contests in 1988-89, Roy Williams’ first season at KU.… KU is 19-0 when holding its opponent to under 80 points.
RPIs as of Sunday: WVU 30, KU 3.