Fourteenth-ranked West Virginia men’s hoops made its triumphant return to the basketball court with a 69-47 victory over Kansas State on the road Saturday.
WVU forced 28 turnovers from the Wildcats in the win, which is the highest number during the tenure of head coach Bruce Weber at K-State. The Mountaineers were able to turn those into 26 points on offense.
Deuce McBride got the wire-to-wire win started with a jumper, followed by a three-pointer from Jalen Bridges. Although KSU’s Davion Bradford answered with a dunk on the other end, the Mountaineers never lost their lead during the entire game.
Soon enough, WVU began to pull away. A fastbreak dunk from Derek Culver sparked an 11-0 run that included points from Jordan McCabe, Seny Ndiaye and McCabe.
McCabe earned his first start of the season in this contest, and set a season-high in minutes with 23. He finished with eight points and five assists.
Ndiaye also saw a big spike in minutes as a valuable spell for Derek Culver. He finished with two points and a rebound.
WVU kept its lead in double-digits in the first half, and took a 14-point lead into the halftime break. Much of that lead was built on a strong defensive effort which generated 18 Wildcat turnovers — off of which they scored 14 points.
“I was pleased, I think, more with our defensive effort in the first 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. We got so many more opportunities than they got because of the job they did defensively.”
Kansas State threatened that advantage in the first minutes of the second half behind a push from Selton Miguel. The guard scored KSU’s 11 points in the period, while a pair of free throws from Matt McGuirl ticked the deficit back into single digits.
WVU answered quickly, though, with an 8-0 run from Bridges and two three pointers from Taz Sherman. That put the lead back over 10 points, and they would build on it to ultimately end the contest with a 22-point advantage on the scoreboard.
There were some areas of concern for WVU in the second half, especially among its newcomers. Ndiaye racked up four fouls, including a technical that earned him a spot on the bench for the remainder of the game. Kedrian Johnson also picked up a technical later in the contest, while Derek Culver fouled out with 3:54 remaining in the game, with four of those whistles coming in the second half. He finished with eight points and four rebounds.
Additionally, WVU struggled on the rebounding glass. Gabe Osabuohien’s five boards led the team’s 24-rebound effort on the day. This was a farcry from Kansas State’s 37-board game, which was led by three Wildcats at five.
“I think the problem was [KSU was] shooting all threes, which are going to rebound long,” Huggins said of the rebounding deficit. “It wasn’t our bigs. Our bigs can’t rebound it whenever they shoot a bunch of threes, they never have. The ball is bouncing well over their head. It’s a matter of if we’re going to play three guards or four guards, whatever, those guards have to do a better job of blocking out, staying between the rim and rebounding the ball to help us.”
That statistic doesn’t necessarily indicate a dominance of the inside game, however, as WVU won the points in the paint battle, 22-20.
Three Mountaineers ended in double figures. McBride was the leader with 18 points to go along with five assists and three rebounds. Bridges was right behind with 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, while Sherman added 10.
McGuirl and Miguel were the only double-digit scorers for the Wildcats, with 15 and 10 points respectively.
“I thought it was the biggest win of the year because we we’re coming off a loss in a game that we could’ve, should’ve won, and then we get hit with the COVID-19 stuff and we really hadn’t had a time where — we were down to basically four guys [for various reasons],” Huggins said. “Hard to get anything done with four.”
WVU returns to the court on Monday when they face 12th-ranked Texas Tech at home in Morgantown. That tips off at 9 p.m. on ESPN.