MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Back on January 21, Kansas State defeated West Virginia University 79-75 in Manhattan and now the 13th-ranked Mountaineers are looking to avenge that loss.
WVU’s defense had been struggling of late but in Wednesday night’s 61-50 win at Oklahoma, “Press Virginia” appeared like it was back.
The Mountaineers’ (19-5, 7-4 Big 12) lack of intensity over the last few weeks had caused a drop off in the press and found WVU on the opposite side of the win column several times, including the loss against the Wildcats.
During that loss, Kansas State (16-8, 5-6) shot better than 50 percent and made the Mountaineers’ defense virtually non-existent in the second half as they failed to get critical stops and turned the ball over a season-high 23 times.
“Twenty of their 28 field goals were second shots, runouts or transition points — 20 of 28,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “That’s hardly hard-nosed defense.”
Since then the Wildcats have lost four of its last five games, their lone win coming against Baylor.
Guards Kamau Stokes (12.3 points) and Barry Brown (12 points) both scored 15 points apiece in the first matchup. Forward DJ Johnson (12 points, 6.3 rebounds) recorded 14 points and nine rebounds and Wesley Iwundu (12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds) had 13 points and nine boards against the Mountaineers.
WVU’s leading scorers the last two games have been an unlikely duo of freshman. Lamont West came off the bench and tallied 21 points in the Mountaineers’ loss to Oklahoma State and James “Beetle” Bolden came off the bench and dropped 17 against the Sooners.
Forward Esa Ahmad (11.6 points, 4.3 rebounds) was in a little bit of a slump when WVU was in Manhattan last month and the sophomore is struggling the last two games, netting just two baskets.
Junior point guard Jevon Carter (11.5 points, 4.4. assists) is also trying to break out of a three-game slump. He’s shooting 8-of-23 with eight turnovers and six assists.
Junior Daxter Miles Jr. (9.9 points) missed the Oklahoma trip with a sprained right ankle and his status is unknown for Saturday. Senior Tarik Phillip (9.4 points) is listed as a probable starter in place of Miles.
Tipoff is a noon and will be televised on ESPN.