LAWRENCE, Kan. — David McCormack had 19 points and 15 rebounds, Jalen Wilson added 23 points and eight boards, and ninth-ranked Kansas overcame a sluggish first half to rout defensive-minded West Virginia 85-59 on Saturday.
Ochai Agbaji also had 20 points and seven rebounds for the Jayhawks (14-2, 3-1), who led just 33-31 at halftime but blitzed through the second half to remain perfect against the Mountaineers (13-3, 2-2) in 10 meetings at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks piled up 23 assists, including at least a half-dozen on alley-oop dunks. They also had a big advantage on the boards, outscored the Mountaineers 54-20 in the paint and won despite shooting just nine free throws and making only five.
Kansas also shut down Taz Sherman, the Big 12’s second-leading scorer at nearly 20 points a game. Sherman was 1 of 9 from the field, 0 for 5 from beyond the arc and finished with five points and two rebounds in 30 minutes.
Malik Curry led West Virginia with 23 points, going 11 of 11 from the foul line. Jalen Bridges finished with 12.
You could have never guessed the final score by watching the first half.
The Mountaineers got off to a slow start before unspooling a 14-0 run through the middle of the first half, building a 25-19 lead with about 6 1/2 minutes to go. But the Jayhawks answered a few minutes later, when Agbaji bookended his 3-pointer with a couple more buckets, and Kansas scored nine straight to take a two-point lead to the locker room.
More important than the score, though, was the flow of the game.
The Jayhawks are among the nation’s highest-scoring offenses, leading the Big 12 at nearly 82 points per game, while West Virginia’s physical, in-your-shorts defense had held 10 of its first 15 opponents to 60 points or fewer.
In other words, the Mountaineers had the plodding pace they wanted.
Until the second half began.
The Jayhawks picked up speed at both ends of the floor, turning their own lockdown defense into some fast-break offense. They scored the first nine points to push the lead to 42-31 at the first media timeout, then kept building on the advantage, and it eventually swelled to 57-40 on Wilson’s transition layup with 10 minutes to go.
The party was on by the final few minutes: McCormack flexing after a put-back dunk, Wilson strutting back up court after an alley-oop jam of his own, and Agbaji taking a nifty back-door pass for yet another easy dunk.
The Jayhawks cruised to their fifth win in their last six games against West Virginia.
West Virginia was simply two different teams from the first half to the second. The Mountaineers controlled the tempo and prevented Kansas from getting into transition over the first 20 minutes, then unraveled after the break. Their poor 3-point shooting didn’t help matters — they were 4 of 18 from beyond the arc.
Kansas has been waiting for McCormack to be consistently good all season, and he took a step in the right direction against West Virginia. Perhaps even more important was Wilson, who shrugged off a season-long funk to have his best game. He also had five assists and one turnover in 32 minutes.