🏀 Game Preview: vs. No. 7 West Virginia
LAWRENCE, Kan. – No. 3/4 Kansas (7-1, 1-0) will host No. 7/6 West Virginia (7-1, 1-0) in a top-10 Big 12 battle Tuesday, Dec. 22, at Allen Fieldhouse. The contest will begin at 8 p.m. (Central) and will air on ESPN2.
Kansas has won seven straight since losing its season opener to No. 1 Gonzaga and is coming off a 58-57 win at No. 14/14 Texas Tech on Dec. 17. Kansas’ seven-game winning streak is tied for the 11th longest in NCAA Division I. West Virginia has won its last four games after its 70-65 win against Iowa State on Dec. 18.
The Jayhawks’ seven-game winning streak is the longest in the Big 12 and ties for the 11th longest nationally. Their 12-game home court winning streak is tops in the conference and ties for the 12th longest nationally.
Kansas averages 78.6 points per game, which is third in the Big 12, and is fifth in the league with a +12.4 scoring margin. KU leads the league in rebounds per contest (43.2) and its +10.1 rebound margin is second in the conference. KU has outrebounded its last seven foes since losing the battle of the boards in the season opener against No. 1 Gonzaga. Kansas also ranks in the upper half of the Big 12 in scoring offense (third at 78.6), scoring defense (fifth at 66.3), scoring margin (fifth at 12.4), free throw percentage (second at 72.2), field goal percentage defense (third at 39.3), 3-point field goal percentage (second at 39.2), blocked shots (second at 4.3), steals (fourth at 7.6) and 3-point field goals made (fourth at 8.4). KU averages 13.5 assists per contest.
Junior guard Ochai Agbaji has led KU in scoring in each of the last two games with 18 points versus Omaha (12/11) and a season-high 23 points at Texas Tech (12/17). Agbaji leads KU with a 15.3 scoring average, which is seventh in the Big 12. He has made eight 3-pointers in his last two games and a team-high 21 for the season. Agbaji is second on the team with 19 assists and third with 10 steals and six blocked shots. Redshirt-freshman forward Jalen Wilson leads Kansas with an 8.0 rebound average to complement his 14.3 points per game. His rebound average is fourth in the conference and first among league freshmen. Wilson has a team-high three double-doubles this season. Sophomore guard Christian Braun is second for the team high with 12 steals and second on the squad with 16 3-pointers made. Braun averages 10.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per outing. Junior forward David McCormack posted his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds versus Omaha (12/11). McCormack scores 9.8 points per contest and pulls down 5.4 rebounds per outing. An All-American candidate, senior Marcus Garrett recorded his first double-double of the season at Texas Tech (12/17) with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He leads KU with 31 assists and 12 steals while averaging 8.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
Others who have played significant minutes through seven games include freshman guard Bryce Thompson (one start, 5.6 ppg), junior guard Tyon Grant-Foster (4.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg), redshirt-senior forward Mitch Lightfoot (3.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg), sophomore guard/forward Tristan Enaruna (2.9 ppg) and freshman guard Dajuan Harris Jr. (1.8 ppg). Grant-Foster and Lightfoot are tied for the team lead with seven blocked shots. Harris is tied with Agbaji for second on the squad with 19 assists.
The Kansas-West Virginia series started when WVU joined the Big 12 Conference in 2012-13 and KU holds a 14-5 advantage. The Jayhawks have won eight of the last nine meetings, including an 88-74 win in the semifinals of the 2019 Big 12 Championship at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. KU is 8-0 against West Virginia in games played in Allen Fieldhouse, 3-5 at WVU Coliseum and 3-0 in the Big 12 Championship. Besides the 2019 semifinal win, KU defeated WVU, 81-71, in the 2016 Big 12 title game and 81-70 in the 2018 Big 12 title game, with all the postseason matchups at Sprint Center.
- Kansas is 6-0 in the month of December and vying to go undefeated in the month for the eighth time in head coach Bill Self’s 18 seasons at KU. The last time KU posted an undefeated December was 2016-17 (6-0).
- With the win at Texas Tech (12/17), Kansas has won 30-straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season, with 12 of those at home and 18 on the road. The last time KU lost a league opener was at Oklahoma, 88-82, on Jan. 8, 1991.
- West Virginia will be the fifth ranked team Kansas will play so far in 2020-21. The Jayhawks are 3-1 versus ranked foes in 2020-21 and the three wins tie for the most against ranked teams, along with Gonzaga. KU is 1-1 versus top-10 teams this season.
- Through eight games, Kansas has had five different players lead the team in scoring and eight in steals. This includes ties for the team high.
- Kansas’ last six losses have been to ranked foes, with three of those in the top five.
- This season, Kansas men’s basketball will be wearing a patch that reads “UNITED WE STAND” signifying its stance on the recent social injustice in the United States. The patch has gold lettering with the black background being in the shape of the state of Kansas.
Kansas opens the new year in Allen Fieldhouse hosting No. 10/10 Texas on Saturday, Jan. 2. The game will start at 11 a.m. (Central) and will be televised on ESPN2.