West Virginia-Kansas Preview
With the final days of his Kansas career winding down, Perry Ellis is playing like someone determined not to let it end without collecting some championship hardware.
Jevon Carter looks to be making the Big 12 tournament his own personal coming-out party for West Virginia, which survived a near-heartbreaking semifinal defeat.
After helping them endure a less-than-stellar performance in Kansas City, Ellis will try to lead the top-ranked Jayhawks to their 14th consecutive victory and seventh conference tourney title in 11 years on Saturday night against the surging ninth-ranked Mountaineers.
Ellis had been averaging just 12.4 points on 42.3 percent shooting over a five-game stretch before coming alive to score a combined 42 on 18-of-30 shooting in the final regular-season games to help Kansas (29-4) hold off West Virginia (26-7) for its 12th straight Big 12 crown.
An All-Big 12 first teamer for the second straight year, Ellis then had 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting in Thursday's 85-63 win over Kansas State before scoring 20 on Friday to help the Jayhawks recover from an ugly first half and a late Baylor rally in a 70-66 semifinal victory.
Ellis, the team's leading scorer with 16.7 per game, went on a personal 8-0 run early in the second half to give Kansas some cushion after trailing 23-21 after the first 20 minutes.
Devonte' Graham chipped in with 14 points and eight assists as Kansas punched a ticket back to the Big 12 title game for the second year in a row. The Jayhawks are looking to lock up the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament with their first Big 12 tourney crown since 2013.
The Mountaineers had been averaging 82.4 points in their previous five games before falling well short of that mark while shooting 34.2 percent from inside the arc in Friday's 69-67 semifinal win over Oklahoma. They hit 10 of 22 from 3-point range en route to their sixth straight victory and first title game appearance since joining the Big 12 in 2012-13.
With leading scorer Jaysean Paige limited to 10 points, Carter stepped up with a season-high 26. The sophomore has totaled 41 points while sinking 9 of 14 from 3-point range in two tourney contests after averaging 5.5 and shooting 15.1 percent from 3 over his previous 15.
Paige came through late by sinking a jumper to give West Virginia the lead with 11.2 seconds left before Oklahoma star Buddy Hield banked in a mid-court heave at the buzzer. The Mountaineers could finally exhale when officials ruled Hield didn't get the shot off in time.
''It's a win against a great, great team,'' coach Bob Huggins said. ''But we came to win (the championship). We didn't come to play. We came to win. And that's my focus.''
The Mountaineers hope to give their NCAA Tournament seeding a lift with their fourth win in six meetings versus Kansas. Paige had 26 points and Devin Williams added 17 and 12 rebounds Jan. 12 when Kansas coach Bill Self said his team "got punked" in a 74-63 road loss.
The Jayhawks, however, got even Feb. 9 when they held Paige to 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting. Ellis had his second straight 21-point game in the series in a 75-65 home win.
"You have to handle pressure, in which one game we did an average job of it and one game we weren't very good at all," Self said. "It will be a fun game for us."