The weather outside was frightful but inside Allen Fieldhouse it ended up being quite delightful as the ninth ranked Kansas Jayhawks knocked off the West Virginia Mountaineers 85-59 on Saturday afternoon.
It was a tight game at the half as the Jayhawks led 33-31. The offense was rocky for Kansas out of the gate but did find some rhythm near the end of the first half. West Virginia’s free throw shooting was key for them in half number one as they shot 22 percent from the floor but were 14-15 from the charity stripe.
In the second half everything changed for Kansas as they came out firing on all cylinders right from the get go, shooting out to a quick 9-0 run and they held West Virginia scoreless all the way to the first media timeout.
That was the tone for the rest of the half as West Virginia struggled to score from anywhere but the free throw line. The Mountaineers finished the game shooting 27 percent from the floor but were 75 percent from the free throw line.
Offensively it was a three-headed attack by the Jayhawks as senior Ochai Agbaji, senior David McCormack, and redshirt-sophomore Jalen Wilson led the way in the scoring column this afternoon.
Agbaji had another 20 point performance as he continued his standout senior campaign. Agbaji was also active on the glass as he secured seven rebounds in the contest. He was also 4-8 from three point range and is now shooting a career high 48 percent from outside.
This game was the tenth time this season Agbaji had eclipsed 20 points and his third game in a row. It is also the third time this season Agbaji has had a streak like this.
McCormack earned his first start in Big 12 play this season after being demoted by head coach Bill Self to end the non-conference slate. McCormack responded soundly as he had an amazing afternoon for Kansas.
He had a season high in points with 19 and also tied his season and career high with 15 rebounds. 10 of his rebounds were on the offensive end for Kansas. This is the first time under head coach Bill Self that a player has secured 10 offensive boards.
“I think I did a great job rebounding offensively, but I think I should’ve grabbed more defensively,” McCormack said. “Hopefully one of these games I can break the record again and maybe get 20 boards.”
Jalen Wilson was the do-it-all man for Kansas tonight as he had his best all-around game as a Jayhawk. Wilson tied his career high with 23 points tonight and it was the second time in the past three games that Wilson has hit the 20 point mark.
Wilson also added eight rebounds and was tied for the team lead with five assists as he did an excellent job leading the break for Kansas as well as facilitating in the half-court.
“I’m just trying to bring the game as much energy as I can,” Wilson said. “I think before I was focused on the wrong things, but now let me just be the spark that we need and the energy that we need.”
Both Wilson and McCormack have struggled to start the season, something that has not escaped either of them or their teammates. Agbaji feels like both of them have done a good job keeping a level head through the struggles.
“Going through a slump like that, they’ve obviously had that before I’ve obviously had that before,” Agbaji said. “You just gotta be mature about it and have a positive attitude. That’s the only way you’re gonna get out of it.”
Head coach Bill Self also loved what he saw out of Wilson and McCormack tonight. “They were both great. Jalen was fabulous in just about every area,” Self said. “Y’know David was probably as dominant of a game he’s played this year.”
Kansas had a slow start to the game and that did not escape coach Self despite the team finishing with 85 points.
“It was hard the first half,” Self said. “We labored to get to 33, we didn’t get into transition, we didn’t get a lot of things in the first half and when we can’t do that it’s gonna be hard to score.”
Things opened up for Kansas in the second half as they scored 52 points as a team to pull away.
With the win Kansas moves to 3-1 in conference play and are 14-2 on the season. The loss drops the Mountaineers to 2-2 in conference play and 13-3 overall.
Kansas will get a couple days off before they hit the road to take on Oklahoma down in Norman on Tuesday. Oklahoma is 2-3 in conference play after losing on the road to TCU on Saturday.