Ames, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - The jockeying for positioning in the ultra- competitive Big 12 Conference continues on Saturday, as the 21st-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers pay a visit to the 14th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones.
Both teams come in with identical 7-4 league ledgers, putting them in a tie for third place in the Big 12 standings. Oklahoma is just ahead at 8-4. and Kansas leads the way at 9-2.
The Mountaineers recently put the brakes on a two-game slide by topping visiting Kansas State on Wednesday night, 76-72. The victory improved the team to 9-3 at home, and it will be hoping to elevate its record in true road games this season to 5-2. However, the two road losses have come in three of the team's recent trips outside of Morgantown.
The Cyclones were last in action on Monday night, as they dropped a 94-83 decision at Oklahoma. It was the squad's third loss in the last six games, but ISU is clearly happy to be home where it has claimed victory in all 13 games played in Ames this season.
These two teams met on West Virginia's home court back on Jan. 10, and the Cyclones prevailed in a 74-72 final. Abdel Nader paced the winning side with 19 points, while the Mountaineers, who shot just 32.4 percent from the floor, got 23 points from Juwan Staten. As a result, Iowa State leads the all-time series, 4-1.
Brandon Watkins made the most of his 17 minutes off the bench, as he tallied 14 points and nine rebounds to lead West Virginia to its recent win over Kansas State. Staten tacked on 11 points, while Jaysean Paige and Jevon Carter chipped in 10 points apiece for the Mountaineers, who shot 46.3 percent from the field, and hit six 3-pointers compared to only three for the Wildcats. K- State wound up connecting on 56.8 percent of its total shots, but it was WVU's bench that kept the home team's spirits high as it outscored the Wildcats' reserves by a staggering 47-19 margin.
Despite shooting just 41.3 percent overall and 29.7 percent from 3-point range, West Virginia is averaging a healthy 75.6 ppg. The team boasts only two double-digit scorers in Staten (14.2 ppg, 4.5 apg) and Devin Williams (11.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg). The Mountaineers have played pretty well on defense this season, as they permit 65.2 ppg while forcing a whopping 21.5 turnovers per contest. They are also on the plus-side of the ledger when it comes to coming up with loose balls, doing so by an average of 3.0 rpg.
Simply put, Iowa State failed to come up with enough key stops in its recent loss to Oklahoma, as the Sooners shot 50.6 percent from the field in making 39 total field goals, as compared to 31 buckets on 47.7 percent efficiency by the Cyclones. Both teams shot well from distance, with ISU hitting 14-of-29 3- point tries and OU 10-of-21. Iowa State committed 14 turnovers to only half that number for Oklahoma, and the Cyclones got double-digit scoring efforts from four players, including Dustin Hogue with 19 points. Jameel McKay was close to logging a double-double as he finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, while both Naz Long and Bryce Dejean-Jones pitched in with 14 points apiece.
With a scoring average of 80 ppg, the Cyclones boast six double-digit scorers, led by Georges Niang and his 14.9 ppg. The other five net between 10.3 and 12.6 ppg, providing Iowa State with the kind of balance that most teams can only dream about. Monte' Morris is one of the more well-rounded performers for Iowa State, as he not only scores 10.3 ppg, but he makes sure his teammates get involved in the action by dishing out 5.5 apg. The Cyclones are outshooting the opposition (.488 to .419), but they are converting only 68.8 percent of their free throws, compared to a 73.2 percent effort by the enemy.