Updated at: 01/28/2013 10:07 PM
By JOHN RABY
(AP) MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Travis Releford and Jeff Withey both scored 15 points and No. 2 Kansas nearly relinquished a double-digit lead before beating West Virginia 61-56 on Monday night to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 18 games.
Kansas (19-1, 7-0 Big 12) shot 54 percent from the field in the first-ever meeting between the schools. The Jayhawks have held their last six opponents under 60 points.
Ben McLemore added 13 points for Kansas, which is in the middle of a stretch of six of nine games on the road.
Aaric Murray had 17 points and Juwan Staten added 14 for the Mountaineers (9-11, 2-5), who fell to 0-4 against ranked opponents this season.
West Virginia used several steals to trim a 15-point deficit to eight at halftime but never took the lead in the second half.
Staten scored three straight baskets, including a jumper that pulled the Mountaineers within 48-46 with 10:19 left. But they fell silent over the next 3 minutes.
McLemore, Kansas’ leading scorer who sat on the bench for most of the first half in foul trouble, hit a layup and made two free throws on the next trip down the court during a 7-0 run that put the Jayhawks ahead 55-46 with 7:33 left.
West Virginia never recovered. The Mountaineers managed just four field goals over the final 10 minutes.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins could have picked up a $25,000 bonus for a regular-season win over Kansas, something that was included in a contract extension signed in November.
But the Mountaineers shot just 37 percent and Huggins fell to 0-5 all-time against the Jayhawks.
Without any players averaging in double-figure scoring for the season, Huggins has jumbled his lineups this season to try to come up with size matchups and points production.
Lately, not much has worked.
West Virginia has lost five of six games. With 11 games left in the regular season, the Mountaineers are in jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time under Huggins, their sixth-year coach.
Freshman Eron Harris, who led West Virginia in scoring at nearly 16 points over the last three games, was limited to two points on 0-of-4 shooting.
Kansas held West Virginia without a field goal over the game’s first 7 minutes. Withey, who had a 25-pound weight disadvantage to West Virginia’s Deniz Kilicli, scored eight of Kansas’ first 14 points and he reached double figures midway through the half.
The Jayhawks twice built a 15-point lead before getting sloppy, and West Virginia trimmed the deficit to 38-30 at halftime.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)