Kansas State is fresh off a rare conference road win, while No. 7 West Virginia is coming off an equally rare conference home loss. That means an angry Mountaineers squad will come to Manhattan Saturday, and will likely turn up the defensive pressure.
Kansas State defeated Oklahoma State 96-88 Wednesday night to capture the second victory in the Wildcats’ last 19 Big 12 road games. West Virginia fell 89-87 at home to Oklahoma in overtime.
West Virginia, known to its fans as “Press Virginia,” leads the Big 12 Conference — and the entire nation — in turnovers forced with 23.6 per game. The Mountaineers also lead the conference and the nation in turnover margin at plus-12.5, more than double the next closest (Fordham, 5.9).
In Wednesday’s loss against Oklahoma, West Virginia forced only 12 miscues, and the Mountaineers lost for the first time in the last 13 conference home games.
Worse yet, West Virginia yielded up the game-winning basket on an end-to-end drive by Jordan Woodard.
“We’re supposed to be the best pressing team in America,” Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said after the game. “How do you let a guy drive right down the floor and shoot a layup? Five seconds. In five seconds, he drove it the length of the floor and shot a layup to win the game.
“The guy at the other end of the bench (Lon Kruger) is a heck of a coach. Jordan Woodard is a heck of a player. (But) it’s been like pulling teeth to get these guys to work as hard as they were working before in practice and it shows.”
Handling the press is always the top priority for West Virginia’s opponents, and the matter got a little tougher for Kansas State during the Wildcats’ 96-88 victory at Oklahoma State Wednesday night. Kansas State’s point guard Kamau Stokes twisted his left ankle late in the game and did not return to the game.
But the injury did not appear to be nearly as serious as last year’s knee injury that ended his season in late January. He hobbled off the court, but limped back to the bench before the end of the game. With Barry Brown, Carlbe Ervin and even forward Wesley Iwundu able to handle the ball, Stokes won’t be quite as essential in handling West Virginia’s press.
Kansas State (14-4, 3-3 Big 12) is in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 at 12.9 turnovers per game. The Wildcats committed 12 turnovers during their defeat of the Cowboys, which marked just the second time in the last 17 tries that they left Stillwater with a victory.
“I talked about us having to have emotion today and that’s probably the most important aspect of tonight’s win,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said after the triumph. “We had to do it together and we all did that. You have five guys in double figures and the bench guys did a nice job of coming in and making sure we finished the game. (Wesley Iwundu’s) line (15 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists) is what I have been dreaming of all season. He was really good tonight. Barry (Brown), of course, was really, really good and to have a career-high (22 points).
“A lot of guys played well. It was just a good team win and great road win. We’ve been so close (on the road) and something good finally happened. If you have a good attitude, good things will come.”