No. 13 WVU aims to keep up intensity vs. K-State

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No. 13 West Virginia regained its defensive edge during Wednesday night’s 61-50 win at Oklahoma.

Preparing for Saturday’s matchup against Kansas State should be a reminder what happens when the intensity dips.

Three weeks ago, the Wildcats won 79-75 in Manhattan, becoming one of only two teams to shoot 50 percent or better against West Virginia (19-5, 7-4). The loss spawned a plethora of frustrating sequences that have received plenty of film room emphasis leading up to the rematch.

“Twenty of their 28 field goals were second shots, runouts or transition points — 20 of 28,” said Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins. “That’s hardly hard-nosed defense.”

Though Kansas State (16-8, 5-6) has dropped four of its past five games, it remains on the good side of the NCAA tournament bubble according to bracketologists. Jerry Palm of CBS projects the Wildcats as a No. 10 seed with ESPN’s Joe Lunardi forecasting a No. 9 seed.

K-State continues a stretch against the Big 12’s top three teams, having won 56-54 at No. 2 Baylor and losing 74-71 at home vs. No. 3 Kansas.

“We know where our RPI is and it’s good enough,” said Wildcats assistant Chris Lowery. “We know where our record is, where we are in the league, and we know historically how many teams are going to get in.”

While four Kansas State starters average double-figures, the lone holdout — 6-foot-10 sophomore forward Dean Wade — scored 20 points against Kansas and presents an inside-out mismatch problem. He’s shooting 52 percent overall and a team-leading 42 percent from 3-point range.

“We probably need to get it to him a little more,” said K-State head coach Bruce Weber.

Guards Kamau Stokes (12.3 points, 4.5 assists) and Barry Brown (12 points, 3.3 rebounds) each scored 15 in the first meeting. Forward DJ Johnson — whom Huggins labeled “the most physical player in the league ” — finished with 14 points and nine rebounds against West Virginia while 6-7 Wesley Iwundu added 13 points and nine boards.

The Mountaineers, having lost twice at home to double-digit underdogs during the past month, anticipate another sold-out crowd Saturday. Their scoring leaders the past two games have been freshman reserves Lamont West (21 against Oklahoma State) and Beetle Bolden (17 at Oklahoma), spotlighting that Huggins has no qualms about changing his substitution pattern on the fly.

Among the West Virginia starters, Esa Ahmad (11.6 points, 4.3 rebounds) shot 1-of-6 in Manhattan and has only two baskets during the last two games. Point guard Jevon Carter (11.5 points, 4.4 assists) is trying to shake a three-game slump in which he’s shooting 8-of-23 with eight turnovers and six assists. His 2.92 steals per game still lead the Big 12 however.

West Virginia’s Daxter Miles (9.9 points, 2.0 rebounds) — after missing the Oklahoma trip with a sprained ankle — was spotted jogging and cutting at Friday’s practice, though Huggins remained uncertain about the guard’s availability for Saturday.