Three Thoughts From Kansas vs. West Virginia

Posted by Chris Stone on February 10th, 2016

Entering February, it looked like KansasBig 12 title streak was in serious danger, as the Jayhawks brought three double-figure road conference losses into the season’s shortest month. Now, with a few fortuitous bounces — i.e., Kansas State’s upset of Oklahoma over the weekend — and last night’s home win over West Virginia, Kansas is, along with the Sooners and the Mountaineers, part of a three-way tie atop the Big 12 standings at 8-3. One of those teams will suffer its fourth loss on Saturday in Norman when Oklahoma welcomes Kansas in the rematch of early January’s triple-overtime classic. Before that, though, let’s consider a few thoughts from the game last night that deadlocked those three teams into the top spot.

Landen Lucas delivered in Kansas' 75-65 win over West Virginia. (Nick Krug/KU Sports)

Landen Lucas delivered in Kansas’ 75-65 win over West Virginia. (Nick Krug/KU Sports)

  1. Kansas could use that Landen Lucas more often. Without freshman Cheick Diallo living up to his considerable preseason hype, head coach Bill Self has struggled to find production out of the center position. He has started four different players there this season, but Lucas’ Tuesday night performance (nine points, 16 rebounds, four blocks) will likely solidify his role in the starting lineup. Matched up against all-Big 12 candidate Devin Williams, Lucas delivered the best performance of his career. Although it is both unfair and unlikely to expect the junior to post similar numbers again, Self only needs a modicum of production going forward from his center spot. Lucas showed last night that he can deliver.
  2. Perry Ellis deserves more adulation. Ellis delivered another virtuoso offensive performance last night, finishing with 21 points on just nine shots. The senior’s offensive game largely resembles a 50-year old who plays noon ball at the YMCA, relying on finesse and guile to beat his defenders off the dribble. He is consistently productive despite a lack of flash, and if Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield weren’t in the same league he could have been this season’s Big 12 Player of the Year. In conference play, Ellis is averaging 19.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. It might be time for college basketball fans to take a brief break from their jokes about Ellis’ age (and hairline) to show him some appreciation in the short time he has left at Kansas.
  3. West Virginia’s offense really struggles in the half-court. Kansas turned the ball over 15 times last night but the Mountaineers couldn’t consistently convert those miscues into easy buckets. West Virginia finished with 13 points off turnovers and zero fast break points on its way to a disappointing 65-point outing. The Mountaineers’ inability to shoot the ball allows opponents to pack the paint and create plenty of tough looks at the basket. As a result, West Virginia finished 5-of-20 from behind the arc last night, dropping its average to a paltry 31.4 percent on the year. If the Mountaineers want to make a run in March, they’ll need to be more successful in turning all of their steals into certain points.
Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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