An angry No. 12 West Virginia squad will be looking to avenge a loss from earlier this month when it hosts Kansas State in a Big 12 contest Saturday afternoon.
The Mountaineers (16-4, 4-3 Big 12) lost 84-68 in Manhattan, Kan., on Jan. 18 when they fell behind by 24 points in the second half. A 15-0 surge cut into the lead, and West Virginia eventually got within six points before the Wildcats pulled away late.
The Mountaineers are coming off an 89-81 loss at Texas Tech on Wednesday, while the Wildcats claimed their second Big 12 victory, a 61-53 win over Oklahoma, the same day.
Despite forcing 22 turnovers and only turning the ball over 11 times, West Virginia could not escape Lubbock, Texas, with a win. The biggest reason was torrid shooting by Texas Tech; the Red Raiders converted a season-high 64.7 percent (11 of 17) of their shots from 3-point range.
“They shot the ball extremely well,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said during his postgame radio show. “They shot 65 percent from 3 and we shot 22 (percent).
“We gave them step-in shots, and from day one with this group all we’ve talked about defensively is we do not give step-in shots. They’ve got to shoot it off the bounce. The two things we can’t do defensively is give up straight-line drives and step-in shots. We did both of those tonight.”
The traditionally strong Mountaineers’ defense has been inconsistent in 2019-20. They’re third in the Big 12 with 61.6 points per game allowed after Wednesday’s loss. They were 11th nationally in scoring defense heading into that game. But they have given up more than 80 points four times.
West Virginia features a balanced offensive attack, with four players averaging at least 9.4 points per game. Oscar Tshiebwe leads the team with 11.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Derek Culver (10.7 and 9.0) is right behind Tshiebwe. Miles McBride (10.4) and Jermaine Haley (9.4) round out the top four.
Kansas State has been even less consistent than West Virginia this season. The Wildcats (9-11, 2-5 Big 12) have shown the ability to race out to big leads, but far too often they’ve given up those leads.
Wednesday’s win over Oklahoma was just the second game all season that the Wildcats have led from start to finish. The other was an 86-41 win over Alabama State on Dec. 11. They have led at some point in all 20 games they’ve played.
“Both halves we did a nice job of gutting it out,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said of the effort against the Sooners. “We got in a little foul trouble, a little tired down that stretch of the first half and they got it back to 6. But Mak (Makol Mawien) got two putbacks right away and we got it to a 12-point lead and then even increased it.
“We did a good job from the get-go. (We played) great defense, turned them over 19 times. (We got) 18 points off of turnovers when they only had two.”
Handling the pressure that West Virginia is sure to present will be key for the Wildcats on Saturday.
They’re led by Xavier Sneed with 14.6 points per game. He’s joined in double figures by Cartier Diarra with 13.0 points per game. After starting the first 18 games of the season, Diarra has come off the bench in the past two to provide a secondary scoring punch. He’s averaged 13.5 points in his two games off the bench.
–Field Level Media