After long wait, No. 14 West Virginia heads to Kansas State

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No. 14 West Virginia finally will get back on the court Saturday after missing three straight games and not playing for two weeks, as the Mountaineers will travel to Manhattan, Kan., to face Kansas State.

Due to COVID-19 protocols, the Mountaineers (9-4, 2-3 Big 12) had a road game against Baylor and home games against TCU and Oklahoma State postponed.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has been lamenting his team’s defense all season, and he said he won’t know how good the team can be until it starts playing again.

“I think we can get better,” he said. “I think we have gotten better.”

Rust might be the biggest question for West Virginia. The Mountaineers are led in scoring by Miles McBride with an average of 15.1 points per game, generated by 43.2 percent shooting from three-point range. He’s joined in double figures by Derek Culver (13.8 ppg), Taz Sherman (12.4, all off the bench) and Sean McNeil (10.1). Culver leads with 10.8 rebounds per game.

Huggins said he isn’t satisfied with where the Mountaineers stand.

“I think we have to finish games better,” he said. “We should have won the Oklahoma game (Jan. 2) and definitely should have won the Texas game (Jan. 9). We’ve got to make free throws, and we have to make shots at the end of games.

“This is a great league with great coaching. You can’t relax. The difference between this league and all the other leagues is that there is no bottom.”

Three of West Virginia’s four losses have come against Top-10 teams, with the other being at Oklahoma. If there is a bottom to the Big 12, it probably includes Kansas State.

The Wildcats (5-10, 1-6) are on a five-game losing streak, with only one loss being by less than 10 points. The Wildcats have been beset by injury and COVID-related absences, though they’re getting closer to a full roster.

Coach Bruce Weber says his team is lacking a crucial element.

“We don’t have anybody right now that can just go make a play,” he said after Tuesday’s 76-50 loss at Oklahoma. “It’s not that they’re not trying; we just don’t have that.”

Starting point guard Nijel Pack might be that guy, but he hasn’t played since an 82-71 loss at Texas Tech on Jan. 5, and Weber said he’s not likely to be ready by Saturday.

Weber also knows his team will have its hands full against the Mountaineers.

“We know we have a very physical contest against a very, very good team in West Virginia,” he said. “We know their team will come and battle. We’re going to have to stand up and be men and deal with their physicality.”

It’s been a frustrating year for Weber.

“It’s the same scenario every game,” he said following Tuesday’s loss. “We’re in the game and make a nice run. We’re up 22-17, then right before the half we don’t make the right plays. We pushed it a little bit in the second half, and then the same thing happens. Turnovers played a big factor. You had 20 turnovers which led to 20 points.”

With West Virginia’s pressure, that likely will be a focus on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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