The No. 14 West Virginia Mountaineers (10-4, 3-3) leaned on their defense, creating 26 points on 28 turnovers and stifled a young Kansas State Wildcat (5-11, 1-7) team to under 38.1% shooting from the field including 3-15 from three-point range, smothering the Wildcats 69-47 Saturday evening.
West Virginia jumped out to a 10-2 lead behind the play of sophomore guard Miles “Deuce” McBride and redshirt freshman forward Jalen Bridges with a pair of threes apiece while Bridges worked the back door early to a two-handed slam to give the Mountaineers early momentum and building a 21-4 advantage midway through the first half. McBride finished the game leading all scorers with 18 points, hitting 4-7 from behind the arc.
The Mountaineers forced 18 first half turnovers but offensively struggled to find any rhythm after a two-week absence due to West Virginia not meeting the Big 12 Conference’s COVID-19 threshold but held a 31-17 lead at the half.
“I thought our offensive effort was horrible, but I thought our defensive effort was really good, and we turned them over, and we were able to score off the turnovers,” said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins. “We got so many more opportunities than what they got because of the job that we did defensively.”
“I thought we did a great job of closing passing lanes – I thought we great job of closing dribble lanes,” continued Huggins. “We did a better job of guarding the ball – a better job of staying in front of people.”
After the game, Huggins stated he only had four players who could practice in the facilities up till the day before the game and had a new look to the starting lineup with Jordan McCabe at the point and Taz Sherman making their first starts of the season. Naturally, the Mountaineers that have been unable to practice had trouble finding their footing.
“I thought the guys that got to work out, I thought they were pretty good. I thought the guys that didn’t get to work out or weren’t able to work out because of the COVID – they struggled,” said Huggins. “We gotta get those back in playing shape, and it’s hard to do with the schedule we got coming up.”
The Wildcats came out of the break and cut the deficit to eight, but senior forward Gabe Osabuohien delivered a pass to a cutting Bridges for another dunk. Then, senior guard Taz Sherman hit back-to-back threes off the right wing to put the Mountaineers back up at the 13:58 mark of the second half. Bridges ended the evening, scoring 12 while Sherman registered 10.
The Mountaineers 8-0 spurt seemingly demoralized the Wildcats as West Virginia cruised to a 69-47 victory and picking up their third conference win on the season.
“I thought it was the biggest win of the year because we’re coming off a loss in a game we could’ve, should’ve won, and then, we get hit with the COVID-19 stuff – we were basically down to four guys, not all because of COVID, well contact tracing and everything that goes along with it, and we had a guy who needed some rest who was hurting… we basically had four guys,” stated Huggins.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Mountaineers as they host the No. 12 Texas Tech Red Raiders at 9:00 pm EST on ESPN.
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