West Virginia-Kansas St. Preview
West Virginia continued its strong start with an easy victory in its first true road game.
A far bigger test awaits at Kansas State.
The 19th-ranked Mountaineers seek what would be their most impressive win of the season Saturday when they open Big 12 play against a Wildcats team aiming to remain perfect at home.
After opening the season with seven consecutive wins, West Virginia (11-1) suffered its first loss against then-No. 10 Virginia, 70-54, on Dec. 8. With three inferior opponents next up on the schedule, the Mountaineers took advantage and won by an average of 28.3 points.
Wednesday's matchup with rival Virginia Tech marked West Virginia's first road game, and the result was much like the previous three contests. Jevon Carter made his first eight shots and finished with 18 points to lead four double-digit scorers as the Mountaineers never trailed in an 88-63 victory.
West Virginia used its full-court pressure to turn 22 turnovers into 26 points, limited the Hokies to six second-half field goals and held a 42-24 rebounding advantage.
''We know when we jump on somebody, we can't let them back,'' Carter said. ''This game, we went on a lot of runs and they kept cutting them short, but we knew we had to jump on them and stay on them.''
Leading scorer Devin Williams (15.5 ppg) was limited to nine points but Jaysean Paige had 17 for the second straight game. Jonathan Holton tallied 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Tarik Phillip added a season-high 12 points off the bench.
"We got our hands on balls and made some good plays," coach Bob Huggins said. "We made some good finishes around the rim.''
Huggins, who went 23-12 as Kansas State's coach in 2006-07, knows his team will need to play just as well to hand Kansas State (10-2) its first loss in eight games at Bramlage Coliseum.
"Kansas State is playing really, really well," Huggins said. "They did what we did, you add some malcontents and they went elsewhere and you think you're not going to be as good and you end up being so much better because you have everybody on the same page."
The Wildcats also are in search of a signature win having lost their only game against a ranked opponent, 80-70, to then-No. 9 North Carolina on Nov. 24.
They reached 10 wins in non-conference play for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons with Tuesday's 75-47 rout of Saint Louis. Kansas State dominated the second half, outscoring the Billikens 40-19 and holding them to 25 percent shooting, including 2 of 14 from 3-point range.
Wesley Iwundu had 13 points and eight rebounds to pace an attack that featured seven players with seven points or more.
''We took a big step today,'' said Iwundu, the team leader with 13.3 points per game. ''We got a few days before it officially starts, so these next days will be important to tune up for the press that West Virginia will throw at us. We're going in the right direction.''
Points won't come easy in this matchup of the two toughest defensive teams in the Big 12. West Virginia is allowing a league-best 60.1 points per game and Kansas State is right behind at 61.5.
The Wildcats have won 14 of 19 at home versus ranked opponents, including nine of the last 11.
West Virginia has won the last three meetings after three straight losses in the series.