Dec. 29th 2019 - Sophomore Forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. yells in celebration when facing off against Ohio State in Cleveland.

Dec. 29th 2019 - Sophomore Forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. yells in celebration when facing off against Ohio State in Cleveland.

The West Virginia men’s basketball team will begin conference play in one of the most historic buildings in college basketball, Phog Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.

The Mountaineers (11-1) will look to defend their No. 16 ranking when they face the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks (10-2) on Saturday at 4 p.m.

WVU is 0-7 against Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse since joining the Big 12 in 2012, despite having multiple opportunities to win in the past.  

In 2015, the Mountaineers were down their two best guards in seniors Juwan Staten and Gary Browne.  Despite being short handed, No. 20 WVU held a 40-22 lead in the first half against No. 8 Kansas, but a furious second half run propelled the Jayhawks to an overtime win to avenge a defeat to WVU earlier in the season.

In 2017, No. 9 WVU felt like it had a comfortable lead at 64-50 with just over two minutes left but couldn’t stop the three-point barrage and stifling pressure defense of No. 3 Kansas and eventually lost by four in overtime again.

In 2018, No. 13 Kansas trailed by eight with less than four minutes remaining, but another late rally pushed the Jayhawks past No. 20 WVU again, ending in another disappointing loss.

This season, WVU will look to change the trend and get their second win against a top three team in as many games, after defeating then-No. 2 Ohio State in Cleveland on Sunday.

Miles “Deuce” McBride had a game to remember against the Buckeyes, finishing with a career-high 21 points, including a go-ahead floater from just inside the three-point line to put the Mountaineers ahead by five with just over a minute remaining.

McBride is expected to be a key piece against the Jayhawks, due to the challenge of defending sophomore Devon Dotson, the leading scorer in the Big 12 at 18.8 points per game.

Dotson also averages 2.3 steals per game, good enough for second in the Big 12.  Sophomore Ochai Agbaji and junior Marcus Garrett also sit in the top 10 in the Big 12 in steals, getting 1.8 and 1.7 steals per game, respectively.

Despite a very quiet game against Ohio State due to foul trouble, freshman Oscar Tshiebwe still leads the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game.  Sophomore Derek Culver follows closely behind with 11.

Culver and Tshiebwe are also two of the top rebounders in the Big 12, going for 9.4 and 8.8 boards per game, respectively.  They will face a stern challenge against Kansas big man, Udoka Azubuike, who averages 8.8 rebounds per game to go along with his 13 points per game.

Kansas’ two best three-point shooters are grad-transfer Isaiah Moss at 42% and Agbaji at 39%.  Dotson is also very capable from the outside but has only shot 15-of-50 for 30% from three this season.

The Mountaineers lead the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense and three-point percentage defense, holding opponents to 36% from the field and 25% from three.  

Their best performance may have come in the second half against the Buckeyes, holding the No. 2 team in the country to 5-of-24 from the field for 21% and 3-of-11 from three for 27%.  The Mountaineers also forced 12 turnovers in the second half and held Ohio State to only 22 points.

The game against Kansas will be on Big 12 Now as a part of ESPN+.