No. 6 Kansas brings elite depth to matchup at West Virginia
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The addition of a transfer who received an abundance of fanfare never derailed Dajuan Harris. In fact, it has not significantly reduced his role in the Kansas rotation.
With former Arizona State standout Remy Martin nursing a knee injury that has kept the Big 12 preseason player of the year out the past five games, Harris barely comes off the floor.
Harris has been a key contributor during the four wins the No. 6 Jayhawks (21-4, 10-2 Big 12) have posted in five games to maintain their conference lead. Kansas now enters a matchup Saturday against West Virginia (14-11, 3-9) at Morgantown, W.V.
"We have got to find some way to spell (Harris) some minutes," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "Hopefully we can get Remy back at some point in time so he can be the guy that does that but (Harris has) played really solid."
His latest stat line is a case in point. Harris played 34 minutes in a 76-62 home win over Oklahoma State, scoring 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, distributing five assists against one turnover, and getting two steals.
That kind of production has been consistent with Martin out. Harris has even been less bashful about firing 3-pointers with opponents more focused on other long-range threats and, in particular, the Big 12's top scorer, Ochai Agbaji (19.9 points per game).
"If they're going to leave him open for 3, we want him to shoot that," Agbaji said. "He's going to make it and that works out well for us. Just keeping him aggressive and confident is just going to benefit all the other guys."
Harris admits Agbaji provided constant encouragement to fire away. Still, Harris is just as focused on causing havoc defensively to trigger run-outs by the Jayhawks, who average a league-best 79.5 points and often take control of games with decisive scoring spurts.
"I have to bring it every game, my best defense. I play defense, get deflections, get steals and they help us out," Harris said. "If I keep doing that, it'll lead us somewhere good."
Games at West Virginia have been among the toughest for the Jayhawks. The Mountaineers own a 6-3 mark at home in the series since joining the Big 12 in 2012-13.
However, the Mountaineers have dropped nine of 10 games this season to fall into last place in the Big 12. Second-half deficiencies continued in a 78-73 loss Monday at Kansas State, when the Mountaineers blew a 10-point lead and allowed a devastating 18-2 run.
"This is another time when we came out after halftime flat," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.
One of those second-half meltdowns came at Kansas on Jan. 15 when the Mountaineers trailed by just two at halftime before tumbling 85-59. The Mountaineers' Malik Curry and the Jayhawks' Jalen Wilson each scored 23 points.
West Virginia's Taz Sherman ranks second during Big 12 play with an 18.6-point average, trailing only Agbaji (19.9). Sean McNeil carries a 13.0 points-per-game average.
"In terms of effort, I've got no issues," Huggins said about coping with the Mountaineers' downturn.
"We're playing some young guys that are going to be really good players and they've just got to continue to grow and we're going to try and help them."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 17, 2022