Jayhawks riding winning streak

MORGANTOWN -The storied University of Kansas basketball program will invade the Coliseum tonight for a Big 12 Conference game featuring two teams heading in different directions.

The 18-1 Jayhawks enter the contest as the No. 3 team in the nation, the leader of the Big 12 and riding a 17-game winning streak.

West Virginia is uncharacteristically under .500 at 9-10 and in seventh place in the Big 12 with a 2-4 conference mark.

The game, set to tipoff at 9 p.m., will be televised nationally by ESPN.

It features a Kansas team whose only loss came on Nov. 13 of last year in its second game of the season, a 67-64 setback inflicted by Michigan State. Since then, the Jayhawks have been unstoppable, scoring impressive wins at Ohio State and Kansas State while blowing away foes who dare invade the Phog Allen Fieldhouse, which West Virginia must do on March 2.

West Virginia, meanwhile, has lost of four of its last five contests, including an 80-66 Saturday night road setback at Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers are 2-5 in January with their only wins over Texas and TCU.

In those seven January games, WVU has topped the 70-point mark just once, in its 71-50 win over TCU. Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins has given virtually every player on his roster an opportunity to step up and become the team’s go-to player, but he still hasn’t found that answer.

West Virginia has seven players who average scoring between 7.1 and 9.6 points per game, but the Mountaineers don’t have a single player who is averaging in double digits. Juwan Staten and Aaric Murray lead WVU with 9.6 averages, followed by Terry Henderson (8.0), Jabarie Hinds (7.9), Eron Harris (7.7), Deniz Kilicli (7.5) and Gary Browne (7.1).

Kansas, meanwhile is led by 6-foot-5 freshman guard Ben McLemore, who is averaging 16.2 points per game. McLemore is one of four Jayhawks who have started all 19 games. Others are Jeff Withey, a 7-0 senior center who averages 13 points per contest and leads the Jayhawks in rebounds with 8.4 per game; Travis Releford, a 6-6 senior guard who carries a 12.7 scoring average; and 6-4 senior guard Elijah Johnson, the team’s leader in assists who averages 9.5 points per contest.

The Kansas roster shows the basketball program’s ability to recruit from coast-to-coast as it boasts players from Massachusetts to California.

Kansas claims five national basketball championships, last winning in 2008.