The Times West Virginian

Sports

February 18, 2013

Mountaineers hope to bounce Kansas State on homecoming

MORGANTOWN — There are those who would make more of what tonight’s West Virginia University basketball game at Kansas State is, but do not count Bob Huggins among them.

“In all honesty, if I had a list of 100 things to worry about, that might be 112,” Huggins said.

Homecoming?

What homecoming?

Oh, it’s true that Huggins’ resume lists Kansas State as one of his former employers, having coached there following losing his job in Cincinnati, sitting out a year and before he was lured home to West Virginia to coach.

But it was only a year, just long enough to resurrect the program before turning it over to his assistant Frank Martin.

Far more on his mind right now is how he takes his .500 team and finds a way to win some games down the stretch to build some kind of new resume that the NCAA selection committee can consider, something that does not exist at present, even with four victories in the past five games including Saturday night’s 66-64 triumph over Texas Tech.

Homecoming?

“I’ve got one day to get ready for a pretty good team, and I have to make sure I give our team all the resources they need to have a chance to win,” Huggins said.

A year ago, Huggins got to play against Kansas State, but it was a “neutral court” game, if there could be such a thing in Wichita, Kan., not on the campus in Manhattan.

He received a warm welcome there. Will it be as warm on campus in front of a student section in a game that is important to K-State and new coach Bruce Weber?

“If they don’t (give me a warm welcome), they don’t. What am I going to do?” Huggins said. “The truth of the matter is I’ve been gone for six years now. Unless those guys are on the Jay Jacobs plan for graduation, they are probably gone now.”

Jacobs, of course, is the WVU color analyst on radio and an alumni of the school.

The fact of the matter is Kansas State beat WVU the first time the two schools played in Morgantown, stretching their then winning streak to six games as the No. 18 team in the country with a narrow 65-64 victory.

The Wildcats won it when Shane Southwell made two free throws with 21 seconds remaining.

The lead changed hands six times over the final eight minutes. After Southwell’s free throws, West Virginia had two chances to retake the lead but Jabarie Hinds missed a wild jumper from 16 feet with 12 seconds left, and Gary Browne had a driving layup blocked by Southwell as the clock ran out.

It was only the third block of the year for the 6-6 Southwell.

“I thought we played pretty well against them here,” Huggins said. “They are very physical. I mean they are very physical. They try to push you out in the post rather than front you. We try to front.”

This time they will have to deal with confident Deniz Kilicli, coming off his top game as a Mountaineer with 25 points against Texas Tech.

Kilicli expects a big effort from the Mountaineers.

“Everybody has got to be really excited about these games because if you win them, we go to the NCAA Tournament. So I’m just going to do my part of the job the best I can, and I don’t worry about the rest of it. That’s Huggs’ job,” he said.

Huggins believes his offense this year has to run through Kilicli to be successful, and K-State will challenge that.

“The truth of the matter is, in a lot of instances, how are we going to score without Deniz?” Huggins said. “The other thing Deniz does is get other people open because the other team has to help out on Deniz. Eron Harris has been a recipient of making more than one guy have to guard him.”

Harris has been the hottest of Mountaineers in recent days, being the leading scorer in conference play.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmaiil.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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