LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — West Virginia had an opportunity to make some history at Kansas.
Instead, the Mountaineers met the same fate as teams in the 36 consecutive games before them.
Perry Ellis had 21 points, Landen Lucas pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds and the sixth-ranked Jayhawks beat No. 10 West Virginia 75-65 on Tuesday night to forge a three-way tie atop the Big 12.
In doing so, the Jayhawks avoided the first regular-season sweep by a league opponent since 2000-01, and their first loss to the Mountaineers in four games at Allen Fieldhouse.
“I think we probably helped their cause,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “It wasn’t all them. You have to give us credit for screwing the game up too.”
Devin Williams had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Jaysean Paige also had 14 points for the Mountaineers — though their leading scorer was just 5 of 16 from the field.
“You can’t miss that many shots,” Huggins said. “You can’t miss that many transition opportunities. We had all kinds of transition opportunities and I don’t think we converted one. We missed some tips and rebound baskets. You have to score when you have opportunities. We didn’t do that.”
Williams in particular had a hard time with Lucas, who had nine points but was ferocious on the defensive end. Along with his rebounding, the Kansas junior forward had a career-high four blocks.
Frank Mason III added 14 points for the Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3), who handled the Mountaineers’ pressure well in avenging a loss lost month in Morgantown that had them playing catch-up in the league race.
Now, they are tied with the Mountaineers (19-5, 8-3) and No. 3 Oklahoma (20-3, 8-3) as they pursue their 12th consecutive championship. All three teams have seven games remaining. Kansas is at Oklahoma on Saturday.
“We knew we weren’t too far out of it,” Lucas said. “We handled business, but now we have a big one Saturday. We’re just going to get mentally prepared to go down there and win.”
Unlike their meeting in Morgantown, the Jayhawks were the ones who dominated the first half Tuesday night. They committed six turnovers — they had 22 total in the first game — and shut down West Virginia at the other end, which prevented the Mountaineers from getting into their pressure defense.
Quickly out-letting the ball after every defensive rebound, the Jayhawks rushed up court before the Mountaineers could retreat, often with Mason and Devonte Graham taking it all the way to the rim.
Kansas built a 36-24 lead late in the first half, but Tarik Phillip threw in a prayer off his own miss and Paige curled in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to slice into the Mountaineers’ deficit.
The Jayhawks used a 13-2 run early in the second half to take a 53-40 lead, their biggest of the game. But the Mountaineers finally got some traction with their press, forcing turnovers on four straight possessions, and slowly trimmed the lead to 54-50 with about 8 minutes left in the game.
The decisive point may have come moments later, when Phillip was fouled while driving to the basket. He whipped an elbow that clipped Mason in the chin and was assessed a flagrant foul. So after Phillip air-balled his free throw, Mason made one at the other end to start another Kansas run.
Ellis finished it off with a 3-pointer that made it 70-58 with 3:21 to go.
Despite a few sloppy moments down the stretch, the Jayhawks were able to coax the final minutes off the clock to pick up a crucial victory in the Big 12 race.
“I thought we got punked in Morgantown,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “What I take away from this is we played more like men than we did when we went to Morgantown.”
HOLTON STILL OUT
Mountaineers forward Jonathan Holton remained out after violating team rules. Huggins has not said when he’ll return from his suspension, which has cost him four games.
West Virginia: Daxter Miles Jr. was held to two points on 1-for-8 shooting. … Huggins coached his 300th game at his alma mater. … The Mountaineers committed only 10 turnovers.
Kansas: Wayne Selden Jr. had 11 points. Graham and Brannen Greene scored 10 apiece. … Bill Self improved to 203-9 in Allen Fieldhouse. … The Jayhawks shot 56 percent from the field.
West Virginia plays TCU on Saturday.
Kansas visits No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday.
WEST VIRGINIA (19-5) – Adrian 3-3 0-0 8, Ahmad 0-2 4-5 4, Williams 4-10 6-9 14, Carter 2-6 2-2 6, Miles Jr. 1-8 0-0 2, Myers 0-1 2-2 2, Paige 5-16 2-2 14, Phillip 5-10 0-1 11, Watkins 0-1 0-0 0, Macon 2-2 0-1 4. Totals 22-59 16-22 65.
KANSAS (20-4) – Lucas 4-5 1-2 9, Ellis 7-9 6-7 21, Mason III 3-7 7-8 14, Selden Jr. 4-9 2-4 11, Graham 3-6 2-2 10, Mykhailiuk 0-1 0-0 0, Diallo 0-0 0-0 0, Greene 2-3 4-4 10, Bragg Jr. 0-0 0-0 0, Traylor 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-41 22-27 75.
Halftime_Kansas 36-29. 3-Point Goals_West Virginia 5-20 (Adrian 2-2, Paige 2-6, Phillip 1-2, Myers 0-1, Ahmad 0-1, Miles Jr. 0-4, Carter 0-4), Kansas 7-17 (Greene 2-3, Graham 2-4, Ellis 1-2, Mason III 1-2, Selden Jr. 1-5, Mykhailiuk 0-1). Fouled Out_Adrian. Rebounds_West Virginia 28 (Williams 9), Kansas 33 (Lucas 16). Assists_West Virginia 9 (Ahmad, Paige, Phillip, Williams 2), Kansas 13 (Graham 4). Total Fouls_West Virginia 24, Kansas 18. Technicals_Phillip, Selden Jr.. A_16,300.