The 18th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats go in search of their sixth straight win, as they pay a visit to the West Virginia Mountaineers for a Big 12 Conference clash on Saturday afternoon.
Bruce Weber's Wildcats have won 12 of their first 14 games, including five in a row. The team's most recent triumph came in its conference opener against visiting Oklahoma State, 73-67, last Saturday, running its home record to 10-2 in the process. Kansas State is playing only its second true road game of the season today, and this is first of two in a row the 'Cats will play outside of Manhattan.
West Virginia's first foray into the Big 12 has been met with tepid enthusiasm as the team dropped a 67-57 decision to visiting Oklahoma last Saturday, but bounced back to post a 57-53 overtime victory at Texas on Wednesday. Overall, the Mountaineers sit just two games over .500 (8-6), and coach Bob Huggins is looking forward to going against the team he led in 2006-07 when Kansas State posted a 23-12 record, marking the most wins for the team in nearly two decades.
The all-time series between these two new conference rivals is tied at 1-1, with WVU winning the most recent meeting, 85-80, in double-overtime on Dec. 8, 2011 in Wichita, Kansas.
Kansas State doesn't have that one star player some of the other top teams in the country do, instead relying on contributions from a slew of guys who simply play within the system implemented by head coach Bruce Weber and his staff. Rodney McGruder (14.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg) is the closest thing to a standout performer team has, as it averages 69.8 ppg in hitting 42.2 percent of its total shots, which includes a 32.8 percent effort from 3-point range. The Wildcats are stingy in yielding a mere 56.9 ppg, with foes hitting a mere 38.5 percent of their field goal attempts, missing nearly three quarters of their long-range launches along the way. KSU owns a whopping +9.0 rebounding margin, and the team is +2.2 in turnovers differential. After a slow start last time weekend versus Oklahoma State, McGruder exploded to score 26 points in the second half to help lead the 'Cats past the Pokes. McGruder finished with 28 points, hitting five 3-pointers, the team as a whole tallying just seven. Nino Williams certainly made the most of his 21 minutes of action off the bench, netting 17 points in going 7-of-11 from the field. A 39-29 rebounding advantage helped offset a 24-12 deficit in points from the foul line for K- State.
With a record hovering right around .500, it's not surprising that West Virginia allows (66.0 ppg) nearly as many points as it scores (68.3 ppg). The team has just two double-digit scorers in the form of Aaric Murray (10.6 ppg) and Juwan Staten (10.5 ppg), with the former also serving as the Mountaineers' leading rebounder (7.7 rpg). WVU is shooting just 39 percent from the floor, with the 3-point shot falling just 27.6 percent of the time. Thankfully, foes aren't exactly lighting it up (.424 overall, .336 from long distance), and Huggins' club owns positive differentials in both rebounding (+3.8) and turnovers (+2.4). In the overtime victory at Texas, Murray came off the bench to post a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Jabarie Hinds added 11 points and six boards. Overall, the Mountaineers connected on only 30.6 percent of their total shots, including just 1-of-8 in the extra session, but the Longhorns were a mere 34.5 percent efficient for the game, missed 4- of-5 shots in overtime, and were outscored at the foul line in the extra frame, 5-1, which proved to be the difference in the game. A 32-20 edge in bench points helped WVU stay in contention.