Jayhawks seek to avenge last year's loss at West Virginia
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Kansas point guard Frank Mason III arrives for Tuesday's game against No. 18 West Virginia as a national player of the year candidate and the Big 12's top scorer.
He is also hungry to make amends.
During last season's visit to the WVU Coliseum, then-No. 1 Kansas lost 74-63, with Mason committing a career-worst seven turnovers -- a flurry of mistakes that surprised even West Virginia's defenders.
The Jayhawks (18-1, 7-0 Big 12) are ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll this time, riding an 18-game winning streak that is tied for the nation's longest. Yet Mason and fellow senior Landon Lucas are eager to halt another streak: their 0-3 record in Morgantown.
"It's not about my bucket list or whatever, but I just want to win that one," said Mason.
A week ago West Virginia (15-4, 4-3) envisioned hosting Kansas for the Big 12 lead. Then came back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Kansas State, forcing the Mountaineers to regroup.
"You know you're going to take a loss or two, so it's all about how you bounce back," said forward Esa Ahmad.
Seemingly primed for a breakout season, Ahmad's production dipped dramatically the past three games when he made four baskets and committed 10 turnovers. When his pass was stolen late in the road game against Kansas State, it became the team's 23rd turnover and cost the Mountaineers a chance to tie the game.
"Last game we were just kind of throwing it everywhere," said the 6-foot-8 forward. "We've got to make sure we get the ball and get in a stance.
"I've got to get back aggressive. I feel like I haven't been putting enough pressure on defenses."
Likewise, West Virginia's full-court press hasn't been as disorienting of late. The top turnover-margin team in Division I this season finished a combined minus-11 in that category in the last two losses.
"Our ball pressure isn't what it was and we're not closing traps the way we were," said Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins. "You want to make (ballhandlers) more worried about you than they are about where they're going to throw the ball."
While Mason averages 20.1 points, shoots 53 percent from 3-point range and increased his assists to 5.4 per game, the Jayhawks' four-guard lineup features other weapons. There is Devonte Graham (13.5 points, 4.8 assists), who scorched West Virginia for 27 in the Big 12 tournament last March, and freshman Josh Jackson (15.1 points, 6.7 rebounds).
The Jayhawks, in search of their 13th consecutive league title, score 85.4 points per game and rank fourth nationally in KenPom's offensive efficiency.
"They've got multiple guys who can push the ball," Huggins said. "They've got great speed and they're great finishers. I haven't seen anybody near as good in transition."
West Virginia scores 88.3 points and ranks 10th in efficiency. Sparked by the nation's steal leader, Jevon Carter (12 points, 4.6 assists), and senior forward Nathan Adrian (10.6 points, 6.3 rebounds), the Mountaineers seek to avoid their first three-game losing slide since February 2014.