It’s the game K-State fans have been waiting for: West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins will return to Bramlage Coliseum for the first time since leaving K-State to take a job at West Virginia after the 2006-07 season — his lone season as head of the Wildcats. It was Huggins who jump-started the K-State program, bringing in players like Bill Walker, Michael Beasley, Jacob Pullen and Dominique Sutton.
The Wildcats come into the game trying to stay at the top of the Big 12 Conference in the midst of a three-way tie with Kansas and Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers, on the other hand, are playing for pride and maybe an NIT bid. However, records do not reflect how tight this matchup could be.
In their last meeting, K-State depended on junior guard Shane Southwell to put the nail in the coffin. The Wildcats trailed 63-64 with 21 seconds left when Southwell stepped to the free-throw line, hitting both free throws. He then blocked West Virginia sophomore guard Gary Browne’s layup with time expiring to seal the deal. Both Southwell and senior guard Rodney McGruder finished with a team-high 17 points.
“They are very physical; they crash the boards very well,” Southwell said of West Virginia. “It’s going to be a tough physical game. We’ve just got to use our crowd the same way they used their crowd to make shots. It gave them a boost in a way, and we’ve just got to use our crowd to get that boost.”
In last season’s meeting, West Virginia handed the Wildcats their first defeat of the season in a double-overtime thriller in Wichita. When these two teams meet, it is bound to be a close contest.
“They are very physical there is no doubt about it. They have great quickness; they have some inside presence. It’s a fine line. We have to be rested and fresh, but we have to be prepared,” said K-State head coach Bruce Weber. “Big Monday, great crowd, great opportunity to play a little better than a week ago.”
This will be K-State’s second-straight week playing as part of ESPN’s “Big Monday.” Last week, the Wildcats did not fair well, as they went into Allen Fieldhouse and suffered their worst defeat of the season. However, the Wildcats will have the home court advantage this week.
In the first matchup, both teams played almost identical games. What it came down to was the little things for K-State. The Wildcats only grabbed one more offensive rebound and tallied eight steals.
Although the Wildcats had 10 more total fouls than the Mountaineers, West Virginia was unable to capitalize from the charity stripe. Going a meager 12-for-22, the Mountaineers left a lot of points off of the board with their poor free-throw shooting. They were able to shoot 50 percent from behind the arc, but only attempted eight threes.
West Virginia has yet to win a conference game against a team with a winning record, and this will be one of their toughest trips of the season.