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Brenden Welper | | December 23, 2020

How No. 3 Kansas ran away from No. 7 West Virginia for a statement win

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No. 3 Kansas won its 17th consecutive Big 12 regular season game by defeating No. 7 West Virginia 79-65 on Tuesday night.

After trailing by one at halftime, the Jayhawks outscored the Mountaineers 44-29 in the second half. West Virginia's Sean McNeil led all scorers with 24 points in a losing effort. 

The loss puts West Virginia's Bob Huggins at 0-15 all time against top-5 teams on the road, according to ESPN.

Here's how Kansas ran away with this one. 

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The Jayhawks started fast, using an 8-0 run to take a 13-4 lead just 4:39 into the game. That was a result of their constant ball movement. They racked up four assists on their first five baskets by frequently catching West Virginia out of position. Once the Mountaineers were sucked into the paint, Kansas kicked the ball out to an open spot-up shooter. 

Even when those open looks wouldn't fall, the Jayhawks made up for it by controlling the glass. Kansas finished with 25 second-chance points and 19 offensive rebounds. Ten of those boards came in the first 11 minutes of the second half, just as the Jayhawks began to pull away. They would end the game with 19 assists on 28 made field goals. 

Dangerous from deep

Kansas knocked down a season-high 16 triples on 43 percent (16-of-37) shooting. Sophomore Christian Braun (22 points, seven assists, four rebounds) led the way, going 6-for-12 from beyond the arc. More than half of the Jayhawks' total field-goal attempts were 3-pointers.

Bill Self's team shot 9-for-19 from long range in the second half. By comparison, West Virginia went 1-for-11. Coincidentally, it was 3-point shooting that helped the Mountaineers take a one-point lead at halftime. Once those shots stopped falling, the Mountaineers' offense never found a rhythm.

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WVU's McNeil starts hot, but fizzles down the stretch

Sean McNeil provided West Virginia with a much-needed scoring spark to open the game. The junior scored 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first nine minutes to keep the Mountaineers afloat. Three of those field goals came from beyond the arc, including two catch-and-shoot triples (one from each corner) on consecutive possessions.

By halftime, McNeil had 20 points on 7-of-7 shooting, including 6-for-6 from beyond the arc. He banked in a long 3-pointer off the dribble as time expired to give West Virginia its first lead since the opening basket. That bucket capped an 8-0 run for the Mountaineers to close the first half.

But the Jayhawks limited McNeil to just four points in the final 20 minutes. He missed all three of his 3-point attempts, and shot 1-for-4 in the second half. 

With the win, Kansas is now 2-0 to start Big 12 conference play this season. The Longhorns next host No. 10 Texas on Jan. 2. The Mountaineers will visit Oklahoma on Jan. 2.

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