This game is Senior Night and marks the final home game of 6-4 walk-on guard Christian Garrett. Kansas has won 31-straight home finales, including 30 consecutive Senior Nights, dating back to the 1983-84 season. In 2006-07, Kansas did not have a senior on its roster.
With just two regular-season games remaining, KU (23-6, 12-4) has already clinched a share of the Big 12 title and can win the league championship outright with a victory over West Virginia. Kansas is two games ahead of Oklahoma (11-6), Iowa State (11-6) and WVU (10-6).
The Jayhawks will aim to win their second-straight game after beating Texas, 69-64, in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.
SCOUTING WEST VIRGINIA
WVU (22-7) had won three straight games before falling at No. 19 Baylor, 78-66, on Saturday. West Virginia averages 74.0 points per game and has a +8.1 scoring margin. The Mountaineers average 36.9 rebounds per contest (45.9 percent of its rebounds are on the offensive end) and have a slim +3.2 rebound margin. WVU leads the country in steals per game (11.3) and offensive rebounds per contest (16.9), while ranking second in turnover margin (+7.5). The Mountaineers force 20.2 turnovers per game and also average 14.5 assists and 2.9 blocks per contest.
Senior guard Juwan Staten, the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, leads the attack with 14.5 points per game, 125 assists and 111 free throws made. Sophomore forward Devin Williams is next in scoring (10.8 ppg, No. 2 in Big 12 at 8.1 rpg), followed by freshman guard Jevon Carter (8.8 ppg, team-high 52 steals and 44 three-point field goals made), junior forward Jonathan Holton (7.9 ppg, team-high 26 blocks) and senior guard Gary Browne (7.0 ppg).
Staten didn’t play against Baylor last game due to a knee injury, while Browne sprained his ankle three minutes into the contest and didn’t return. Carter stepped up and scored 25 points and made seven threes. Both Staten and Browne are considered day-to-day.
WVU is coached by Bob Huggins, who is 172-98 in his eighth season at WVU and 762-309 in his 33rd season overall.
LAST TIME OUT
WVU nipped KU, 62-61, in Morgantown on Feb. 16. The Mountaineers shot just 37.5 percent from the field, but had 22 offensive rebounds and outscored KU 17-9 off turnovers. WVU’s bench also had 21 points to just six for Kansas.
Perry Ellis led three Jayhawks in double digits with 19 points while Staten, who hit the game-winning shot in the closing seconds, paced all scorers with 20 points. Ellis, Frank Mason III (18) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (14) were the only KU players to score in the second half.
Ellis missed a contested layup at at the end of the game, which would have won the contest for KU.
KU coach Bill Self remembers that game all too well. And he hopes to see different results this time.
“It was a close game and it will be a close game tomorrow night, too,” Self said before practice Monday afternoon. “The way they play, I don’t think it really matters much if they’re playing at home or on the road because they turn people over just as much it seems like on the road as they do at home. Huggs will have them ready, and they obviously have a lot to play for because if they win it comes down to one game and they can be league champions, too.”
ELLIS ON A TEAR
Ellis, who was named Big 12 Player of the Week for the third time this season (26.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg against K-State and Texas), is playing the best basketball of his career. He has scored 23 or more points in each of his last three games and has averaged 25.0 points and 9.7 rebounds during that stretch. In those last three games, Ellis has shot 59.6 percent from the field with 29 rebounds, four steals and four blocks.
His seven double-doubles this season are tied for second in the league and he is the only player in the Big 12 to rank in the top six in scoring (No. 6 at 14.5 ppg) and rebounding (No. 4 at 7.2 rpg).
COULD BE A PARTY
If KU beats West Virginia and clinches the league title outright, Allen Fieldhouse will be rocking with a festive celebration.
“This could be the best night of the year if we play well,” Self said. “Of course, everything is tempered if you don’t play well at home. But if you play well, then it’s Senior Night, you get to celebrate with your fans, which we haven’t had a chance to do here in a long time. It all comes down to us winning. No disrespect to seniors in the past or seniors moving forward in the future, certainly without a win, I think it certainly minimizes the festive mood that everybody has for our respective seniors.”
Senior Garrett, a 2010-11 redshirt, joined the team in January 2011. During his four-plus seasons, he’s been a part of four Big 12 regular-season championships, two Big 12 Tournament titles, two Elite Eights and one Final Four. KU is 128-31 (80.5 percent) overall and 52-2 (96.3 percent) in the Phog with the Los Angeles native on the roster.
Garrett, who has played in 34 career games and was named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team this season, will be making his first start tonight in place of Oubre. He’s scored two points during his career (a field goal this season against Texas Tech at home on Jan. 10) in 64 minutes, while posting nine rebounds, four assists and 11 turnovers.
Despite playing few minutes, Garrett said he's had a very memorable and incredible career at powerhouse and tradition-rich Kansas.
“A dream come true for sure,” Garrett said with a big smile. “I remember when I was younger somebody asked me everything I really want for a college I go to. I didn’t even really was thinking. I just said a school with a lot of tradition, a school that has a chance to win a national championship and like a big university. I said that and never thought about it probably the rest of my high school career. I’m at exactly where I said. It’s just been incredible, as we all know here, it’s a real special place so I’m glad that I got to be a part of it and I chose to come here.”
Garrett comes from a family of pioneers and greatness. His great uncle Bill Garrett was an All-American at Indiana and the first African-American basketball player in the Big Ten Conference in 1949, while his mom, Cynthia, was the first African-American female to host a late night talk show with NBC’s “Later” from 1998-2000.
Garrett’s cousins also made their mark in football and baseball. Mike Garrett is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame who won the Heisman Trophy at USC before embarking on an outstanding NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, where he was a two-time AFL All-Star and won a Super Bowl in 1969 with the Chiefs.
And then there’s cousin Chris Chambliss, who starred in the major leagues for 17 seasons. He won the American League Rookie of the Year in 1971 and was also a member of six World Series Championship teams as a player and coach with the New York Yankees.