|WVU guard Juwan Staten is averaging more than 20 points per game in Big 12 action so far this season.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia guard Juwan Staten
has certainly caught the attention of the Kansas State players and coaches.
Staten has scored at least 20 points in each of his last three games, is averaging better than 20 points per game in Big 12 play so far this year, and he ranks near the top of the conference leaders in almost every statistical category, including tops in the league in assists per game (6.1).
Staten is coming off a 23-point performance against Texas and had a 20-point, five-rebound, eight-assist effort in his head-to-head matchup with potential lottery pick Marcus Smart in last Saturday afternoon's one-point loss to Oklahoma State.
“Staten can get by anybody,” said Kansas State coach Bruce Weber. “His numbers against Oklahoma State were phenomenal and that was against some of the better guards in the country.”
K-State senior guard Will Spradling will team up with freshman Marcus Foster to try and slow down Staten during Saturday afternoon’s Big 12 game at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.
“He really wants to get out in transition and go,” said Spradling. “He really wants to get to the basket. He has a really nice pull-up jumper so it is going to be the same thing – pressure him in the full court and then once he gets into the half court, just try and contain him.”
Weber believes Staten’s impressive numbers this year (17.4 ppg., 6.1 apg., 53.4 FG percentage) is partly a product of the basketball always being in his hands.
“He is making good decisions, whether he is going to the hoop or creating and kicking,” said Weber.
Kansas State is having another impressive season in Weber’s second year at the helm, the Wildcats now 13-4 following Tuesday night’s 72-66 win over Oklahoma. K-State is 3-1 in Big 12 play and also shows wins over TCU and Oklahoma State, with its lone loss being a 26-point blowout at Kansas.
The Wildcats are not super big, going 6-7 across its front line with a pair of 6-2 guards in the backcourt, but they do a good job with team defense, says West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
“They’ve got a great mix,” admitted Huggins. “They have (6-7 wing) Shane Southwell who had a heck of a year for them a year ago and they’ve got three upper-class starters back. The biggest thing is they gang-guard. You start driving to the lane and you’re going to see a whole bunch of folks with the wrong colored shirt on.”
According to Huggins, the one thing K-State’s helping style of play allows is some open shots on the perimeter, and the Mountaineers must be able to take advantage of it.
In last Monday night’s loss to Texas, WVU couldn’t, West Virginia hitting only 4 of 25 from 3, including missing 15 straight at one point.
Hitting open shots against the Wildcats on Saturday will be crucial for West Virginia (10-7, 2-2) if it hopes to snap its current two-game skid in conference play.
“They’re going to give you some perimeter shots, they’re just not going to give you anything easy,” said Huggins. “They make you score the ball over top of them and for being a little undersized they’re quick to the ball.
“Everybody’s gotten shots from the perimeter and they try and do a good job of contesting them, and the other thing that happens is if you take too many of those, and you take them to deep on the floor and they bounce out, it’s an outlet pass and that gives them an opportunity to score easy baskets,” Huggins added. “The team that generally gets the most easy baskets wins.”
As mentioned, K-State is not very big across the board, starting a pair of 6-7 inside players in Thomas Gibson and Wesley Iwundu, while bringing athletic 6-5 forward Nino Williams off the bench. Huggins said he has been impressed with Williams’ ability to grab offensive rebounds so far this season.
Weber points out that West Virginia is not overly big inside, either, which should benefit K-State.
“They are not huge, so that is a positive,” he said. “They really do not have much depth at the big-guy spots, so that also helps us a little bit, but we are a little undermanned size-wise.”
Considering the vast majority of the offense from both teams comes from their perimeter players, guard play will be important on Saturday.
Perhaps Juwan Staten
can give West Virginia the lift it needs to secure a much-needed win over an upper-level Big 12 team – something sorely missing from the Mountaineers’ Big 12 resume so far in its two seasons playing in the league.
West Virginia’s young team is also in a fragile state of mind right now after its heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma State last Saturday, followed up by its worst performance of the season on Monday night against Texas.
More than anything else, Huggins believes it’s more a matter of his guys simply stepping up and making some shots.
“I think from a standpoint as far as guys being ready to play I think we’re fine,” he said. “We need to start making some shots – and we weren’t making any shots in practice. It’s not like it was an absolute shock to us when we didn’t make any in the game because we didn’t make any in practice, and we didn’t make any in shoot-around.”
Saturday’s game will tip off at 1:30 p.m. and will be televised on the Big 12 Network. Stations carrying the game locally include: MASN (Capital region), PCNC (Pittsburgh), WIYE-My5 (Parkersburg), WVFX (North Central West Virginia), WQWC (Charleston-Huntington), WOAY (Beckley-Bluefield), WTOV-MeTV (Northern Panhandle) and ESPN3.com.
The Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG’s coverage with Tony Caridi and Jay Jacobs begins with the pregame show at 1 p.m. and can be heard on stations throughout the Mountain State.