Kevin Kinder \ BlueGoldNews.com

West Virginia Likely To Remain Without Forward Versus No. 7 Kansas

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Bob Huggins' response to a simple question matched just that.

Asked if he had an update on the status of Jonathan Holton, suspended now for three games for a violation of team rules, Huggins flatly said "No, I don't." Which is fine. The head coach would likely rather focus upon the players available, and the task at hand as the No. 14 Mountaineers play at No. 7 Kansas on Tuesday night.

While those rankings seem likely to change when the new polls are released today, there was a hint that Holton's status could as well. Asked what they keys were for West Virginia's recent success against KU, Huggins said that the biggest difference in past games and the one to come was that "we may not have Jon Holton, and probably won't have Jon Holton. He rebounds the ball so well for us and he's a key to what we do pressure wise."

While trying not to read too much into the statement, it's an odd wording that indicates perhaps there's at least the beginning to an end of the suspension. If not, Nathan Adrian is likely to get another start after scoring 11 points and totalling nine rebounds in the 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor. Adrian has racked up 36 points - including three double-digit games - and 19 rebounds in four consecutive starts.

Adrian has connected on 14-of-22 shots, including 6-of-8 three-pointers after missing 10-of-13 threes over his previous nine games. Huggins has also been able to increase the playing time of both Adrian and Brandon Watkins whith Holton out. Adrian played at least 23 minutes every game during the stretch after having been on the floor for no more than 20 minutes in all but one contest this season. Watkins played a combined 18 minutes versus Florida, Iowa State and Baylor after averaging just two minutes during the previous five games.

"Nate Adrian has gotten better. The time he has been in the starting lineup, he has been shooting better and playing with more confidence," Huggins said. "We have been able to get Brandon Watkins  back in the rotation as well. I think Brandon Watkins needed the playing time to get some confidence. Hopefully, it has helped the rest of our guys gain confidence and play better."

Kansas is 5-2 since its 74-63 loss inside the WVU Coliseum on Jan. 12. The Jayhawks (19-4, 7-3) have beaten TCU twice, along with Texas, Kansas State and then-No. 20 Kentucky while losing to Oklahoma State and Iowa State, both on the road. KU has not lost at Allen Fieldhouse since January of 2014, when San Diego State handed Kansas its ninth defeat in what was then 12 seasons under Bill Self in the building. 

West Virginia led by 18 points in its last game inside the venue before wilting down the stretch and losing 76-69 in overtime. A win would have elevated the Mountaineers (19-4, 8-2) into a tie for the Big 12 regular season title. WVU has defeated the Jayhawks three consecutive times in Morgantown, but is trying for its first series road win; it currently sits in first place in the Big 12, one game ahead of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

"They are obviously very good and well-coached," Huggins said. "We have just had pretty good games. I think even the year before it was a good game until maybe the last three to four minutes. Hopefully we can be competitive again. (The players) obviously know what the standings are. My message is that the dog with the bone is always in danger. So we've got to continue to play as hard and hopefully as well as we can play."

Note: Huggins also commented on the play of Jaysean Paige, who has anchored the bench scoring while averaging a team-high 14 points on 49.5 percent shooting, 37.2 percent from three-point range.

"I'm really happy for Jaysean because he has put in a lot of work," Huggins said. "Jaysean is consistently one of the guys in here working on his game and one of the last to leave after practice. It's nice to see that guys who work at the game and who appreciate the game are rewarded. He's shot the ball better because he's worked on shooting better, and because he's shot better, it has opened his ability to drive the ball."


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