By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia University is hoping that its hard-fought, last-second victory over Baylor will ignite the Mountaineers on a stretch run that will put them in contention for post-season play, but to do it they must start with a revenge victory over Kansas State.
Tipoff is at 1:47 p.m. today at the Coliseum, and the game is being carried on WVFX in Clarksburg and PCNC in Pittsburgh.
Kansas State roughed up the Mountaineers on Jan. 18, handing them their worst loss of the Big 12 season in Manhattan, Kansas, 78-56.
“Any time you lose you are looking to even the score,” said point guard Juwan Staten, whose reverse layup in the closing seconds beat Baylor and evened WVU’s conference record at 4-4 while lifting the Mountaineers to 12-9 for the season.
Kansas State is 15-6 and 5-3 in the league.
Kansas State rides a physical, gang defense to its success.
“When one guy has the ball he is looking at four guys or five guys in the paint. You really have to swing the ball and get them to move,” said guard Terry Henderson, who had a rough go of it in the first meeting.
“You have to make them move bodies, screen them, get them moving before we attack. I think we did a bad job of that in the first game,” said Staten, who plans to make corrections this time around. “We did a lot of one passes, quick shots, and that played right into their hands.
“We have to come out with enthusiasm from the jump. They came out with a lot intensity from the start. We need to put the same amount of pressure on them as they put on us.”
“They play good defense,” said Kevin Noreen. “They have three guys waiting in the lane for you if you drive, but we were making one pass and shooting the ball instead of swinging it around and making them pay for helping so much.
“We were working on that in practice yesterday, just moving the ball around and getting better looks. Shot selection is important, and we think rebounding is important. Not even so much shot selection as running offense.”
Coach Bob Huggins has worked his team hard preparing them for this game because they have reached an important point in the season where they can show that they have improved. Late wins make impressions on the selection committee.
“If you are going to be any good you have to play all 40 minutes,” Huggins said. “Sometimes we forget. Everyone wants to look back on 2010 and we won 31 games, but let’s be honest. Da’Sean (Butler) made seven game-winning shots. If he doesn’t do that, we win 24 instead of 31 and no one is all goo-goo about it. We had a guy who made big shots, and when you have great years you generally have someone who make big shots.
“I keep saying we are close. And I told them before the game started, we’re a couple of stops, a couple of key rebounds, making a couple of key baskets, making another key free throw or two away from having maybe five or six more wins.
“As close as sometimes you think you are, you are far away because the reality is you didn’t do it.”
With the schedule as it is, Kansas State followed by Oklahoma and Kansas, WVU has to put it all together.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.