by Jim Buzzerd
Bit of a coaster ride
A lot has happened with the West Virginia University Men’s Basketball Team since last Monday. WVU had an unexpectedly easy time with TCU at home last Monday posting an 81-49 win over the Frogs. WVU travelled to Kansas State last Saturday and were ambushed 84-68 by the Wildcats. Two days later, a quick turn around, the Mountaineers hosted Texas Monday night and routed the Longhorns 97-59. The win leaves WVU with a 15-3 record overall and 4-2 in conference. Those win totals also match both season totals from last season.
West Virginia did not bring the defensive energy to Kansas State they needed to be competitive. West Virginia led 11-8 after seven minutes. The Mountaineers trailed by five points with five minutes to go before the Wildcats closed the half on a 16-4 run to open up a 42-25 halftime lead.
West Virginia was floundering in the second half and trailed by 23 points, 57-34 with 12:12 remaining. WVU then mounted a 20-3 run to cut the deficit to six points with 7:48 to go in the game. It appeared WVU had seized the momentum, but KSU was able to regroup and snuff out any chance of a Mountaineer comeback, actually extending their lead back out to as many as 20 points.
Life on the road in the Big 12 is tough, just ask TCU and Texas, but WVU had established itself as a top team in the Big 12 and were on the road playing a team that was winless in conference. WVU was favored going in, and in addition to turning the ball over at an alarming rate early in the game, WVU had to deal with a Kansas State team that made 9-18 three pointers. That’s pretty good for a team that was 300th nationally entering the game.
WVU was 15-21 last season, which is one of the worst in coach Bob Huggins’ career, and that season really went downhill when WVU blew a 20 point lead in Manhattan last January. Huggins referenced this in his post game press conference, I guess adding importance to the impending matchup with Texas in a little over 48 hours.
The Mountaineers responded nicely dominating the Longhorns in a 38-point win. There was a noticeable improvement in turnovers as West Virginia committed just eight and enjoyed a 24-1 advantage in points off turnovers. WVU also enjoyed a huge 53-25 rebounding advantage that led to 52-18 points in the paint advantage and a 27-4 edge in second chance points. It was a fun watch for Mountaineer fans.
The pace now slows a bit for the Mountaineers as they don’t play until Saturday when they host Missouri in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The game will tip at noon on either ESPN2 or ESPNU. West Virginia will travel to Lubbock for the rematch with Texas Tech next Wednesday. That game will tip at 8 p.m. on ESPN+.