MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Kansas made its first visit to West Virginia a winning one, but it was hardly an easy outing.
The Jayhawks opened a 15-point, first-half lead, saw the Mountaineers cut the gap to two points, then gathered themselves through the final 10 minutes for a 61-56 victory.
Kansas (19-1, 7-0 Big 12) earned its 18th consecutive win.
Jeff Withey and Travis Releford led Kansas with 15 points each.
Center Aaric Murray came off the bench to contribute 17 points and seven rebounds for West Virginia (9-11, 2-5). He hit three 3-point shots.
It was a festive atmosphere as Kansas came to Morgantown, the students going at full blast as play started.
The trouble was that the West Virginia team did not follow suit. It took 7 minutes and 24 seconds before the Mountaineers hit their first basket, that by Deniz Kilicli. Kansas was dominating the boards and the tempo, building a 29-14 lead with six minutes left in the half.
However, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins continued moving players in and out, trying to find some combination that would slow the Jayhawks. Eventually, Mountaineers center Murray asserted himself and changed the flow.
With 4:30 remaining in the half, Murray stepped in front of a crosscourt pass and stole it, broke free ahead of everyone and hit a thunderous dunk that cut the Kansas lead to 30-20, bringing a roar from the crowd. The noise increased in intensity when guard Gary Browne made another steal, drove on Withey, a 7-footer, and fed Murray, who not only hit the layup by drew a foul, slicing West Virginia's deficit to 30-23.
That was as close as West Virginia would get before halftime, and Kansas led 38-30 at the break. However, the Mountaineers had established that they could play with the Jayhawks, Murray offsetting Withey's 13 points with nine of his own.
When the second half opened, Huggins was giving off body language that said he felt his team had a chance to pull off the upset. When Murray began the half with a couple of 3-pointers and Dominique Rutledge added two huge rebounds and a block of a potential dunk, West Virginia drew to within two points.
And so it stayed as the game moved into the final 10 minutes of play.
NOTES: For the second straight game, West Virginia was without Matt Humphrey, one of the team's better shooters. He re-injured a shoulder that had undergone surgery. ... The teams had never met before Monday night. ... Huggins is tied with Don Haskins for 19th place in all-time victories with 719. He ranks third among active coaches behind Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim. ... Kansas was ranked No. 1 in the nation in the coaches' poll on Monday, the first time the Jayhawks reached No. 1 since February 2011. Michigan is No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. ... Kansas is off to a 19-1 start or better for the third time in the past four years ... Kansas has gone 263 games without consecutive losses.