Mountaineers face Big 12’s stingiest 3-point defense in Manhattan

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Amid the consternation that arose from West Virginia’s horrid 3-point shooting—4-for-25 horrid—against Texas on Monday night, it’s noteworthy that Texas was the worst 3-point defense statistically in the Big 12.

Come Saturday in Manhattan, Kan., West Virginia faces the best.

Kansas State is holding opponents to 26-percent 3-point shooting, by far the stingiest total in the Big 12.

Point guard Juwan Staten, after watching WVU repeatedly clank long jumpers against the Longhorns, said the offense needs to diversify.

“When the 3-point shot is going well for us, I think we can ride with it,” Staten said. “But when it’s not I, I think we have to find something else to do. I think we need to get shots closer to the rim. Maybe get fouled and go to the line. I think we tend to live and die by the 3, and we need to find other ways to score.”

Scoring in any fashion hasn’t come easy against K-State, which allows a league-low 60.1 points per game (11th-best nationally). Part of that is attributable to the Wildcats playing at a deliberate pace that holds down the number of possessions; but they also have a penchant for cutting off dribble drives, which forces opposing offenses to work deeper into the shot clock.

“They do a great job of help (defense) and sitting in gaps,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.

Last season’s trip into the Octagon of Doom was especially gloomy for West Virginia, which trailed by 21 in the second half and fell 71-61, starting a seven-game skid to close the season. The Mountaineers’ five holdovers from that game—State, Eron Harris, Terry Henderson, Gary Browne and Kevin Noreen—combined to shoot 1-of-10.


Tipoff: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. in Manhattan. Kan (Big 12 Network)

Records: The Wildcats (13-4, 3-1) stand 9-1 at home with impressive victories over Oklahoma State, Gonzaga and George Washington. The loss, however, was a stunner: 60-58 to Northern Colorado—oh, that UNC—in the opener. West Virginia (10-7, 2-2) has split its first four Big 12 games in unusual fashion, winning twice on the road and losing twice at home.

RPIs: K-State is No. 35 and WVU is No. 87.

Coach: Since falling out of favor at Illinois, Bruce Weber (353-167 overall) has kept K-State on the rise, going 40-12 in his second season.

Kansas State top players: Freshman shooting guard Marcus Foster has made an immediate splash, topping the team in points (13.9) and minutes (29.1). He’s a versatile threat, leading K-State in 3-point tries and free-throw attempts. … Swingman Shane Southwell (11 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists), forward Thomas Gipson (11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds) and guard Will Spradling (7.0 points, 2.4 assists) return after playing big minutes last season.

WVU roster notes: Juwan Staten’s superb season (17.1 points, 6.2 assists, 5.9 rebounds) hasn’t gone unnoticed. “Staten can get by anybody,” K-State’s Weber said in scouting the Mountaineers. “His numbers against Oklahoma State were phenomenal and that was against some of the better guards in the country. We definitely have to do a good job on Staten, especially in transition. We just showed highlights on him and it was just him going by people 1-on-4 or 1-on-5, just beating whole teams to the hoop.” … With Eron Harris (17.1 points) stuck in a shooting slump, Terry Henderson (12.2 points) is emerging as WVU’s most dangerous off-the-ball threat. … Devin Williams (9.6 points, 7.6 rebounds) was a non factor against Texas, producing two points and zero boards while struggling with illness.

Line: K-State favored by 4.

Prediction: K-State 74-64

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