MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia has a lot it can build on following its 65-64 loss to 18th-ranked Kansas State last Saturday at the Coliseum.
For one, the Mountaineers (8-7, 1-2) shot the ball much, much better from the field against the Wildcats, knocking down 24 of their 47 shot attempts to finish the game shooting 51.1 percent. It was just the third time that West Virginia has made at least half its field goal tries in a game this year.
“I thought we got better shots and I thought we did a better job of getting quality shots,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “Obviously we didn’t get enough of them, but I’d rather shoot 30 percent and win than shoot 51 percent and lose. On the perimeter we play three sophomores and two freshmen and I think we get better all the time. The more experience they get the better we get.”
Also, WVU held its own on the glass against one of college basketball’s top offensive rebounding teams, limiting the Wildcats to only nine offensive boards – seven below Kansas State’s season average.
The game came down to the last possession when the Mountaineers had two opportunities to win it, including guard Gary Browne
’s shot attempt close to the basket that was swatted away by K-State’s Shane Southwell just ahead of the horn.
“They lost a heartbreaker to Kansas State last weekend and it’s a team that you know is going to be prepared,” said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. “I have so much respect for Bob Huggins and the way he runs his program and the way those guys play for him. It’s going to be a great test for our guys.”
WVU will be facing a different challenge on Wednesday night against 11-4 Iowa State, coming off an impressive 82-62 victory over Texas at Hilton Coliseum last Saturday. That win followed up a tough defeat at Kansas when the Jayhawks banked in a 3 at the buzzer to send the game into overtime before eventually outlasting the Cyclones in the extra session.
“You don’t get those opportunities very often in Allen Field House and they bank in a shot to send it into overtime and end up beating us, so you worry about a letdown after that type of scenario,” said Hoiberg. “But to our guys’ credit they really responded."
Iowa State is the only team in the country to have scored at least 70 points in every game so far this year, and is also one of the top 3-point shooting clubs in the country averaging 9.5 triples per game.
“We really want to try and get the ball up and down the floor and score before defenses get set,” explained Hoiberg. “I really like the pace that we’re playing with right now and it starts with getting the rebound. If you control the glass it gives you the opportunity to get out in transition.”
Hoiberg, now in his fourth season at his alma mater, has rebuilt Iowa State into a perennial NCAA tournament contender by loading up on transfers and playing a wide-open, fast-paced style that keeps opposing defenses on their toes.
“I know everybody has different philosophies with their systems and how they play and the way we like to do it is get the ball up and down the floor,” said Hoiberg. “That’s the way we are going to play as long as I am at Iowa State.”
The Cyclones have five different players averaging double figures and is getting 13.3 points per game off the bench from senior guard Tyrus McGee (Crowley C.C.), who also happens to be the Cyclones’ top 3-point shooter with 45 triples.
Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious has made 29 3s while Chris Babb, a Penn State transfer, shows 24 trifectas. Six-seven forward Will Clyburn, a Utah transfer, is Iowa State’s leading scorer with an average of 14.3 points per game.
Six-foot-six forward Melvin Ejim is currently leading the Big 12 in rebounding with an average of 9.3 boards per game. He is one of the few prep players Hoiberg has managed to recruit to Iowa State, the Toronto resident hailing from Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.
The Cyclones don’t start a player taller than 6-7 yet still own a plus-nine advantage on the glass.
“(Rebounding) was something that I was very concerned with coming into this season,” Hoiberg admitted. “We are going to be out-sized most nights and it’s a mindset. You’ve got to have the right mentality going into every game that you are going to battle on the boards and our guys go out there and play with a chip on their shoulder.”
Iowa State’s 16-game home winning streak is currently the longest in the country. The last time the Cyclones lost a game at Hilton Coliseum was more than a year ago against Missouri (76-69) on Jan. 11, 2012.
Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.Briefly:
- West Virginia is in the midst of a difficult stretch of games that will see the Mountaineers make back-to-back trips to the Midwest in a span of three days without the benefit of remaining on the road. Following a return trip from Iowa State early Thursday morning, West Virginia will get back on an airplane and fly out to Purdue for a Saturday afternoon game against the Boilermakers.
“With conference expansion and the different geography, some rules become antiquated,” said Huggins. “We just started school (Monday) so we haven’t been in school this whole time. I think it would have been advantageous for us at times to probably stay rather than come back. I think you will see rule changes as the landscape of college athletics continues to change.”
Huggins thought his team responded well last Saturday against K-State following its late-night travel odyssey back from Austin, Texas that ended up with the Mountaineers arriving in Morgantown at seven in the morning the following day.
“I thought we were fine Saturday,” Huggins said. “I thought we played really hard and I thought we had good energy, but I don’t think it’s a one-shot deal. At the end of the season we’ll have to take a real hard look at the cumulative effect and what we can do to make it better.”
- Like Iowa State, Huggins has taken on more four-year transfers than usual, and two – Aaric Murray
and Juwan Staten
– have played important roles on this year’s team.
“We haven’t had a whole bunch but we’ve had a few over the years that turned out really well for us,” said Huggins. “Jermaine Tate had a great career for us at Cincinnati and I had a lot of transfers when I was Akron. With us, going from 15 scholarships down to 13 scholarships, you’re trying to fill needs and generally transfers happen after the season is over with and a lot of times we have already filled our allotment of scholarships, but I like it.”
- Speaking of transfers, Huggins was asked about the status of sophomore guard Juwan Staten
, who did not play the second half of the Texas game and sat out the entire Kansas State game on Saturday.
“He’s going to travel (to Iowa State),” Huggins said. “Everybody has got to be on the same page and if everybody is not on the same page then you don’t have a very good team. We all make mistakes. He is going to travel and he’s got another practice before Iowa State and we’ll see where everything is and what happens from there.”