Mountaineers see Kansas State’s spoilers again
MORGANTOWN — What will Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe do when West Virginia sees Kansas State tomorrow?
This is the Kansas State team that carried a clouded 7-9 record against the Mountaineers when the Big 12 teams recently met in Manhattan on the home court of the Wildcats. This is the Kansas State team that rushed out to a double-figure lead and had a substantial lead even by halftime.
When the teams began anew in the second half, Kansas State didn’t wither. As the game wore on, West Virginia shot better than it had in a lacklustre first half, but could not make much headway. At the end, the Wildcats won by 16 points, dealing the Mountaineers only their third loss of the season.
Now Kansas State is back again.
An avalanche of noise from the sell-out crowd in the Coliseum is sure to “greet” the Wildcats.
Will West Virginia shoot better from the field? Will it do anything constructive at the foul line? Will Culver and Tshiebwe stay out of foul trouble and stake a definitive claim in the rebounding stats?
Which team actually has the psychological edge?
With early-conference losses to both Kansas and Kansas State as well as the blossoming of No. 1 ranked Baylor, the Mountaineers cannot show another unbecoming shooting exhibition because a third conference loss at this time would probably be fatal to their regular season championship goal.
The 14,031 in attendance will include the adrenalin-charged student body and their loud vocal outbursts.
West Virginia’s chesty team defense can often be enough to carry them through — even if they shoot 50 percent from the foul line or 33 percent from the field.
The consistent scoring of freshman Miles McBride and the overall contributions of Gabe Osabuohien have made the Mountaineers even more dangerous. And when 12 players get at least eight minutes of playing time, some opponents can’t maintain their concentration or have the overall conditioning to keep pace with WVU’s revolving door substitution pattern.
Kansas State might feel as if it is surrounded by hostile bees crowding the stands, or surrounded by take-no-prisoners defenders on the floor.
This is a Big 12 game West Virginia has to have in order to maintain its presence as a regular season member of the now-crowded pack of title contenders.