Kansas and West Virginia both had a lot on the line tonight, with the Montaineers alone in 1st place in the Big 12 for the first time since joining the conference. Kansas is trying to keep their conference title streak alive, and a home loss to West Virginia would have all but put those hopes to bed.
Fortunately for the Jayhawks, they seemed to bring intensity right out of the gate. West Virginia wouldn't go away, however, and every time the Jayhawks looked poised to take the game over, the Mountaineers made a strong run and generally kept the deficit in single digits. Over the course of the game, however, they simply weren't able to execute their typical game plan the way they wanted to. They did force some bad turnovers (KU turned it over 16 times, compared to 22 in Morgantown), and there were a few times that offensive rebounds kept their possessions alive longer than they should have, but unlike the game in Morgantown, Kansas seemed prepared for what West Virginia was going to bring, and this time they didn't face an unreal free throw deficit. While they could never quite run away with this one, they held West Virginia at bay and came away with a very important ten-point victory.
If you're into giving out MVP awards, an unusual candidate likely wins it for Kansas tonight. Landen Lucas came out playing like a man possessed, scoring nine and grabbing 16 rebounds, the most by any Kansas player in a single game this year. Also of note was the reemergence of awesome Frank Mason, who seemed to settle into more of an off-ball position while Devonte Graham was relied upon as the primary ballhandler. Mason played with some fire tonight, scoring 14 points off of 7 shots and notching two assists. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention senior Perry Ellis, who torched West Virginia's defense for 21 points, despite grabbing just one rebound (probably because Lucas wouldn't share).
There's no rest for the weary in the Big 12, however, and Kansas must travel to Norman to take on Oklahoma in a game with huge Big 12 title implications on Saturday at 1:00 Jayhawk Time.