Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

January 18, 2014

WVU looks to get back on track at Kansas State

BECKLEY — Five days removed from what players and coaches agree was the worst performance of the season — an 80-69 loss to Texas Monday in Morgantown — West Virginia’s basketball team will return to the court today trying to erase that memory and get what once looked to be a promising season back on track.

The Mountaineers (10-7, 2-2 Big 12) will face Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., at 1:30 p.m. today, looking to break a two-game losing streak and move back above .500 in Big 12 play.

The Wildcats (13-4, 3-1) will provide a big challenge. KSU has won 11 of its last 12 games, the only loss at rival Kansas, and it’s coming off a win over No. 25 Oklahoma on Tuesday. It was the third ranked opponent the Wildcats have beaten — No. 21 Gonzaga and No. 6 Oklahoma State the other two.

KSU and second-year head coach Bruce Weber get the job done largely with defense. They’re averaging just 67.5 points per game and shooting a league-low 42 percent from the field on the season, but only two opponents — Gerogetown and Kansas — have scored more than 80 points against a Wildcat defense that leads the Big 12, allowing just 60.1 points per game.

“They’re going to give you some perimeter shots, they’re just not going to give you anything easy,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins.

“They make you score the ball over top of them, and for being a little undersized, they’re quick to the ball.”

Huggins cautioned that the offense isn’t bad, either.

Three players — Marcus Foster (13.9 ppg), Thomas Gipson (11.3 ppg) and Shane Southwell (11 ppg) — are averaging double figures in scoring.

“Scoring average is, a lot of times, related to how fast you play,” said Huggins. “It’s not that they don’t get out and run when they have opportunities, but they don’t play as fast as some other people play.”

WVU’s offense has been much more dynamic, averaging nearly 80 points per game. But the Mountaineers have not played the type of defense for which Huggins’ clubs have been known over the years, and they’ve been one of the conference’s worst rebounding teams.

The Mountaineers do lead the league in turnover margin, forcing four more than they’re giving up, and Juwan Staten and Eron Harris are tied for third in the conference in scoring at 17.4 points per game. Staten is also the league’s assist leader, averaging more than six per game, and he’s drawn plenty of respect from KSU’s Weber.

“Staten can get by anybody,” said the KSU coach. “His numbers against Oklahoma State were phenomenal, and that was against some of the better guards in the country.”

Today’s game will be televised locally on WOAY television.

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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