Mountaineers play host to No. 8 Jayhawks

MORGANTOWN-The sellout crowd that will be attending Saturday’s noon clash with No. 8 Kansas (23-7, 14-3 Big 12) won’t be treated to Senior Day as the Mountaineers play their final regular season home game which will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Not because veteran head coach Bob Huggins doesn’t believe in the time-honored ceremony. It’s because this year’s team does not possess a senior on the roster.

But, while the future looks bright for the old gold and blue, Saturday’s showdown with the Jayhawks will be anything, but bright if WVU’s shooters can’t return to the form that got the Mountaineers wins over Oklahoma, Iowa State and TCU.

And, a healthy Terry Henderson wouldn’t hurt as well.

With the Phillips 66/Big 12 Basketball Tournament looming in the very near future, the Mountaineers find themselves entering the final day of the regular season locked in a three-way tie for the No. 6 slot with Baylor and Oklahoma State. A victory over Kansas not only would give WVU (16-14) a 9-9 mark in conference play, but could give West Virginia a bye.

This will mark the fourth-ever meeting between the two schools with the Jayhawks recording a sweep of the series a year ago. Kansas defeated WVU by a 91-65 margin in Lawrence, but had to hold on late to record a 61-56 victory at the Coliseum.

The Mountaineers traveled out to Lawrence on Feb. 8, and came back with an 83-69 setback in a game that was much closer than the final score as the Jayhawks needed a late 12-1 run to turn a two-possession game into a 15-point lead with 5:14 showing on the clock.

Huntington St. Joseph prodigy Andrew Wiggins led the way with 19 points for Kansas and Wayne Selden, Jr. added 17. West Virginia received a game-high 22 points from junior point guard Juwan Staten and 17 from sophomore sharp-shooter Eron Harris, but no other player scored more than seven points.

Kansas head coach Bill Self will go with a probable starting lineup of Wiggins (16.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg), junior Naadir Tharpe (9.2) and Selden (10.2), only a freshman, at the guards and senior Tarik Black (4.9) and sophomore Perry Ellis (13.2) at the forwards.

Also look for 7-footer Joel Embiid to see plenty of playing against a Mountaineer front court that has had its problems of late dealing with the other team’s ‘bigs’. Embiid made himself a force in the teams’ first meeting, finishing with a double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds).

Huggins will counter with a lineup that will include Staten (18.2 ppg) and Harris (17.6) at the guards and junior Remi Debo (7.4) and freshmen Devin Williams (8.3) and Nathan Adrian (5.6) at the forwards.

That lineup would, in all likelihood, have included sophomore Terry Henderson (12.1 ppg), but the illness that has kept him out of since the Texas game probably will keep him off of the hardwood and leave Huggins with a bench that includes junior Gary Browne (6.1) and freshman walk-on Chase Connor at guard and junior Kevin Noreen and freshman Brandon Watkins at forward.