Bruce Weber would like to forget about the last game Kansas State played against West Virginia.
It was a muddled mess filled with so many free throws (64), fouls (54) and turnovers (45) that it took longer than most movies (150 minutes) to complete. Worst of all, when it was over the Mountaineers owned a 65-59 road victory that marked the beginning of the Wildcats’ four-game losing streak.
West Virginia’s full-court press was the main reason why the game dragged on and the No. 21 Mountaineers won. The Wildcats lost 25 turnovers against it, often failing to inbound the ball after baskets or advance past midcourt. When they did break the press, fatigue impacted their shots: 18 of 49 field-goal attempts and 20 of 35 free throws went in. Weber, in his third season as K-State’s coach, described the outcome as “awful” and called West Virginia’s style of play “bad basketball.”
Reliving that experience is low on his list of priorities. But he has no choice with a rematch looming at 6 p.m. Wednesday at West Virginia.
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“It is really hard to simulate in practice,” Weber said of West Virginia’s press. “You can tell the guys about it and watch film, but until you go against it, it’s 40-minute of chaos. The full-court stuff, some of it is (also) half court, where they run and bump you or trap you off ball screens. They just never let you get a rhythm. So you go back and watch the tape.”
Weber thinks he learned something from the video.
The main thing he’s stressing with the Wildcats is keeping composure around the basket. He counted 14 missed layups against the Mountaineers. Some were contested. Many were not.
“Some of that, they get you to go fast they are physical and they try to make the next play,” Weber said. “We had four or five where you have got to make the layups. You start adding those up, and a few less turnovers, and you hope you have an opportunity to be right there at the end.”
Also helping K-State’s odds in the rematch is the health of senior forward Nino Williams, who missed the majority of the first game with a sprained left knee.
His return will be negated by the expected absences of leading scorer Marcus Foster and Malek Harris. Both will be serving the final game of three-game suspensions, according to sources.
“We have got to go with what we’ve got,” Weber said. “I’d anticipate them back sooner than later, but for right now we’ve got to worry about getting ready for West Virginia.”
Added Williams: “We have just got to play better. We have got to play hard all game, have life and have passion. Sometimes we just kind of play nonchalant and we can’t play nonchalant in the league. I’m not blaming anyone, but every guy on this team has got to figure that out. We have got to play hard every possession.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins seems more concerned with how his team responds from a pair of crushing losses — 71-52 at Oklahoma and 87-69 against Baylor — than the personnel K-State uses. The Sooners went from losing by 21 at West Virginia to winning by 19 at home. And Baylor jumped out to an insurmountable lead in the opening moments.
“I don’t think it is that hard to bounce back after a loss,” Huggins said. “I think we will be fine. We have got good guys.”
Weber hopes an earlier encounter with the Mountaineers will help the Wildcats handle their defensive pressure the second time around.
“It’s going to be difficult,” Weber said. “They are coming off two losses. We have had losses. I hope our guys come with a great deal of enthusiasm. It seems like the second time teams play them they have a little bit more success. … We are playing them on the road, but we will have a little bit better feel of what you are doing.”