MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University men’s basketball team have had a while to mull over its most recent loss.
After a matchup against TCU being postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, this weekend’s game marks a full week since the Mountaineers last hit the floor — a 74-59 loss to Texas on Jan. 1.
“I don’t think that we played terrible,” head coach Bob Huggins said, “I just think you can’t turn it over 20 times and, particularly, you can’t turn it over to them for baskets. And we did that. We had way, way, way too many live ball turnovers that resulted in baskets for them.”
Playing without leading scorer Taz Sherman, defensive mastermind Gabe Osabuohien and reserve guard Kobe Johnson due to COVID-19 protocols, the Mountaineers were handed their second loss of the season.
Huggins expects the trio will be back in action this time around, returning critical pieces of the team’s identity. The Mountaineers (11-2, 0-1 Big 12) encounter a much-improved Kansas State team today (2 p.m., ESPN+), one looking for its ninth win of the season after winning only nine games all of last season.
However, on paper, the hand appears stacked against the Wildcats (8-5, 0-2 Big 12).
Head coach Bruce Weber, who missed the team’s last matchup on Tuesday, will also miss today’s game after testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday morning. He told reporters that he expects the team will have a limited roster at its disposal.
If their game earlier in the week is any precursor, depth appears to be the only glaring concern for the Wildcats as guard Nijel Pack, who leads the team offensively, scored 21 points against Texas.
To date this season, Pack is shooting nearly 47% from the field, and is one of five on the team to make 40% or more of their attempts.
“He’s got more shotmakers than I can remember being at K-State in a while,” Huggins said. “He’s got a lot of guys who can make shots, guys who can make hard shots. I really like his team. He’s done a terrific job putting that team together.”
Weber added three players through the transfer portal this offseason, with each making their presence felt offensively. The three rank in the team’s top five in scoring, each averaging more than eight points per game.
Markquis Nowell, a guard who came to K-State from Little Rock, is the Robin to Pack’s Batman, ranking second with 12.8 points per game. Despite missing the Texas game, Weber said he expects Nowell to be available when the Wildcats hit the floor against WVU.
Fellow guard Mark Smith, who played his previous three seasons at Missouri, follows Nowell with an average of 10.3 points per game. Forward Ismauel Massoud, who comes from Wake Forest, averages 8.2 points per game while playing the second-most minutes on the team.
“I think he’s done a great job with the roster management,” Huggins said. “He’s brought in guys that really fit into his system. He’s brought in guys that really make them better. I haven’t really got to watch a lot of people in our league as much as I usually do, as much as I want to, but I have watched Bruce’s team through a full game and they do a terrific job.
“His kids are very competitive,” Huggins added. “I think he’s put a really good squad together.”