Struggling K-State travels to West Virginia for mid-week clash

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Senior forward Nino Williams looks to pass as Texas center Prince Ibeh (44) and guard Isaiah Taylor (right) look for the steal in the second half of the Wildcats' 57-61 shortcoming at the hands of the #25 Longhorns February 7, 2015, in Bramlage Coliseum. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

K-State men’s basketball has seen the best and worst of two-week spans this season.

The Wildcats were one of the hottest teams in the Big 12 for two weeks in January, rattling off five wins in six games while nearly upsetting Iowa State on the road. Then, No. 17 West Virginia came to town and pressed K-State out the gym.

Since that game, K-State (12-12, 5-6) has dropped four-straight contests and has been without sophomore guard Marcus Foster and freshman forward Malek Harris due to suspension.

Meanwhile, No. 21 West Virginia (18-5, 6-4) has dropped two-straight games. The Mountaineers return to WVU Coliseum tonight looking to replicate the success of the full court press that led to 25 K-State turnovers, including 13 steals, in the first meeting.

“It’s really hard to simulate in practice,” head coach Bruce Weber said Monday during the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference. “You can tell the guys to watch film, (but then) you go against it in that 40-minutes of chaos. It’s not always the full court stuff, either. Some of it’s the half court where they just run and jump you or trap the ball screens. They just never let you get a rhythm.”

Statistically, the Mountaineers have one of the best defenses in the nation when it comes to putting pressure on opposing teams. They are first in the country in steals, averaging of 12.1 per game, as well as turnover margin.

Weber indicated Monday that it’s nearly impossible to avoid turnovers against that kind of press. However, his team will try to limit the mistakes and finish easy opportunities at the charity stripe and at the basket.

“You go back and watch the tape, obviously the free throws could’ve been a big difference maker, 20-35,” Weber said. “We figured we had 14-missed layups and some of that is that they get you to go fast. They’re physical on plays and they try to make the next play. You start adding those up, and then you cut back some turnovers, and then you hope you have an opportunity to be right there at the end, which we were there for most of the game.”

The biggest challenge K-State may face — one that proved problematic in the first meeting — involves simply throwing the ball into play. The Wildcats were called for multiple five-second calls, as well a 10-second call attempting to get the ball past half court.

According to reports, Foster and Harris will miss a third-straight game tonight. K-State’s bench helped fill the void Saturday against Texas, tallying 26 points, most of which was scored by sophomore guard Nigel Johnson and freshman guard Tre Harris.

But even with a strong showing from their bench, the Wildcats had no answer for Texas sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor, who went off for 23 points. K-State’s defense has allowed a 20-point scorer in its last two games.

The good news for K-State is that senior forward Nino Williams managed to get involved in the game Saturday for the first time since suffering a knee injury against the Mountaineers.

Williams managed to reach double-digits for the first time since the Jan. 27 Oklahoma State game. He nearly earned a double-double, finishing with eight rebounds.

K-State and West Virginia tipoff from Morgantown, West Virginia at 6 p.m.

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