BECKLEY — If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
The West Virginia University basketball team missed a chance for a huge résumé builder Saturday, falling short on the road against the nation’s eighth-ranked team and Big 12 leader Kansas.
The Mountaineers were within four points late in the game but missed some shots down the stretch and left Allen Fieldhouse with an 83-69 loss.
At 7 p.m. tonight on ESPNU, though, another opportunity awaits, and this one’s at home. WVU (14-10, 6-5 Big 12) is still clinging to hopes of getting back to the NCAA Tournament — after missing out on the Big Dance for the first time in six years last season — and a win over No. 16 Iowa State would certainly help that cause.
The Cyclones (18-4, 6-4 Big 12) come in on a three-game winning streak, having knocked off No. 23 Oklahoma and No. 19 Oklahoma State during that stretch. They rank fourth nationally in scoring with 85 points per game, and they lead the country in assists per game with 18.7.
Melvin Ejim, a senior forward, is averaging 19.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game and is coming off a Big 12 record 48-point effort in a win over TCU on Saturday. Sophomore forward Georges Niang is averaging 16.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
DeAndre Kane — who ended up at ISU after being dismissed from the Marshall program for several off-the-court problems — is having a huge senior year, averaging 16 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game.
“We’ve got to be ready to play,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. “Iowa State is a good RPI team. They beat Michigan during the nonconference schedule, so we’ve got to come home and beat Iowa State.”
WVU, though, has been playing solid basketball, as well. The Mountaineers’ only two losses in the last six games came at No. 11 Oklahoma State (81-75) and at No. 8 Kansas (83-69).
They beat No. 21 Oklahoma on Wednesday, breaking a 16-game losing streak to ranked teams, and have moved into the NCAA Tournament discussion for the first time in two years.
Juwan Staten’s huge junior season is starting to gain some national attention. The Mountaineer point guard is averaging 18.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. His backcourt mate, sophomore Eron Harris, is averaging 17.5 points per game to go along with 3.8 rebounds.
Tonight’s game will be the third of four in a row against ranked opponents for WVU. The Mountaineers will head back on the road to take on No. 15 Texas on Saturday.
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