Mountaineers face major test in clash with Wildcats

Two of the hottest teams in the Big 12 Conference are set for a Monday night showdown, as the Kansas State Wildcats welcome the West Virginia Mountaineers to Bramlage Coliseum.

After suffering an 80-60 loss at Baylor on Feb. 13, West Virginia got back on track at home on Saturday afternoon with a 66-64 win over Texas Tech to improve to 13-12 overall and 6-6 in conference. The Mountaineers are now winners of four of their last five games, which comes on the heels of a stretch of five losses in six games.

Kansas State too was victorious on Saturday, claiming an 81-61 decision over Baylor to move to 9-3 in the Big 12 and continue its run as one of the favorites to win the conference's regular-season title. The Wildcats have been victorious in five of their last six bouts, and at 20-5 overall, they've reached the 20-win plateau for the seventh consecutive season.

K-State managed to take a 2-1 lead in the all-time series with WVU by notching a 65-64 win in Morgantown on Jan. 12.

WVU held a seemingly comfortable 10-point advantage with just over two minutes left in its game versus Texas Tech, and even though the Red Raiders fought back to cut their deficit just two in the waning moments, the Mountaineers were able to hold on for the home victory. Bob Huggins' club shot an impressive 48.7 percent from the field and was paced by a career-day from Deniz Kilicli, who shot 9-of-11 for 25 points to go along with eight rebounds. Eron Harris was also impressive, netting 15 points. WVU has been able to tread water in its first season as a member of the Big 12 as it posts rather modest numbers, barely outscoring the opposition (66.3 ppg to 65.6 ppg). The Mountaineers are the rare team without a single double-digit scorer, although they benefit from a deep rotation of seven players that net at least 6.6 ppg, and 11 with at least 2.2 ppg. Harris leads the way with 9.2 ppg, doing much of his damage from 3-point range (35-of-89). Aaric Murray mans the paint with 9.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 1.5 bpg.

Despite getting outshot from the field in its latest game, .457 to .455, Kansas State was still able to roll to an easy 20-point win over Baylor by dominating the turnover battle (19-6) and the offensive glass (16-8), which helped it log 20 more field goal attempts than the Bears. Angel Rodriguez was the catalyst in the triumph with 22 points to go with 10 assists and three steals (with only two turnovers). Jordan Henriquez also tallied a double- double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and he was a difference-maker with his interior defense, swatting away five shots. Shane Southwell was on fire from 3-point range (6-of-9) for his 18 points, and Rodney McGruder added 10 points to the balanced effort. The biggest reason for the Wildcats' success this season has been an outstanding scoring defense, which yields just 59.4 ppg. They also benefit from favorable margins in the turnover (+3.0) and rebounding (+4.2) battles. Pacing a scoring attack that nets 69.0 ppg is McGruder, who shoots 45.5 percent from the field for 15.0 ppg. Rodriguez is one of the top floor generals in the league with 10.7 ppg and 5.0 apg.