The K-State Wildcats (15-6, 5-3 Big 12) will jump back on the road for the third time in 11 days as they travel to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers (12-9, 4-4 Big 12) Saturday afternoon in Morgantown, W.VA. This will be the second time that these teams have faced off this season.
In the first matchup on Jan. 18, K-State had their way with the West Virginia. Behind a strong performance by junior forward Thomas Gipson, the Wildcats trounced the Mountaineers, 78-56.
“They have good guards, they play well at home, they’ve got to have more confidence,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “They had lost two tough games when we’d played them and now they’ve won two of three since we’ve played them.”
Weber’s designated “good guards” for the Mountaineers include sophomore Eron Harris and junior Juwan Staten, both of whom enter the game averaging more than 17 points per game. In the first meeting against the Wildcats, Harris led all scorers with 21 points with Staten not far behind at 16 points.
While it’s of some comfort that West Virginia has only won one of three home games this season during Big 12 play, including a one-point loss to Oklahoma State, K-State enters Saturday’s game in desperate need of a conference road win.
So far on this season in conference play, the Wildcats have won just one of four games away from Bramlage Coliseum.
“If we want to be in contention for a Big 12 championship, you have to win road games and protect your home court, so we really have to go get this one,” senior guard Will Spradling said.
Spradling has been more of an offensive factor for the Wildcats of late; he has averaged 14.5 points per game in the past two games.
“Coach Weber really helped me out with that last game with giving me the ball at the end of the shot clock,” Spradling said. “It allowed me to make plays and run plays for me to put me in a good position.”
In their trip to Morgantown last year, it was then-junior guard Shane Southwell who propelled the Wildcats past the Mountaineers with some late-game heroics. With 21 seconds left on the clock, Southwell sunk a pair of free throws that gave the Wildcats a one point lead. On the next possession, he came up with the game-winning block to seal the win. Things change from year to year, but that game is one the senior from Harlem, N.Y. said stays with him.
“It was a really fun experience, the fans were really loud,” Southwell said. “It was just a great game, it went down to the wire. Then we made the last play and won it.”
Southwell enters the game on a bit of a skid of his own. After connecting on just two of his last 13 shots from long range, the guard said he recognizes that he will have to do more in order for K-State to get back on track.
“I really feel bad about [the Iowa State] loss, I feel that a lot of it is on me,” Southwell said.
Tipoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.