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West Virginia travels to Kansas State - Preview

West Virginia travels to KSU

Manhattan, KS - With three games left, Mike Carey’s magic number is two.


Two wins to, in his mind, secure his West Virginia Mountaineers’ place in the NCAA Tournament. As it currently stands, ESPN’s Bracketology has the Mountaineers (19-8, 7-8 Big 12) on the wrong side of the tournament bubble – and coming off a crushing home loss to Oklahoma, West Virginia can’t afford another letdown at Kansas State on Tuesday night.


“That’s probably the third game we should have won at home,” Carey said. “That’s frustrating, but even after the game I told them we still need to win a couple games, we can’t let this game linger on and cost us at Kansas State.”


For their part, the Wildcats are nowhere near the NCAA Tournament picture. Kansas State sports a .500 overall record at 13-13, and their 5-10 Big 12 record places them third from the bottom in the conference.


But despite their struggles – Kansas State has lost seven of their last nine, with their only wins in that stretch coming over conference cellar-dwellers Kansas and Texas Tech – they already boast a win over the Mountaineers in Morgantown, and their style of play will force West Virginia to hit shots.


“They play the 2-3 (zone) and play a little bit of 2-2-1,” Carey said. “They have a couple of shooters, but they move the ball and they play well at home. We have to go up there and just execute and play defense.”


Kansas State beat West Virginia in Morgantown 60-52 on January 3, in the first letdown loss that bade ill tidings for the Mountaineers’ season. Heading into the game, West Virginia was No. 11 in the country, with their only loss coming to top-10 mainstay Texas on the road.


But that night, West Virginia’s offense disappeared as the Mountaineers scored just 8 points in the fourth quarter. Outside of Teana Muldrow, who scored 25 points on 10-21 shooting, the rest of the team shot just 8-39 combined from the field, and hit just four of their 26 3-point attempts.


“I don’t know who you’re going to beat shooting (4-26),” Carey said. “That was a close game because we played good defense, but we didn’t hit any shots. We’ll have to hit some shots, we have to get in the paint. We can’t settle for threes, we have to get in the paint and get to the foul line.”


That dismal offensive performance sparked a long shooting drought that the Mountaineers have only recently come out of. Against Oklahoma, West Virginia’s hot start from long range, led by junior Naomi Davenport (24 points, 5-9 from 3) allowed them to get off to a 30-10 lead in the first half, but they needed a furious late rally to send the game to overtime.


A buzzer-beating tip-in by Vionise Pierre-Louis handed West Virginia a 79-77 loss, making Tuesday’s game with Kansas State even more important. If the Mountaineers can’t grab a win in Manhattan, the path to those two wins gets exponentially tougher, requiring a win against a strong Oklahoma State team and a road upset of No. 3 Baylor.


West Virginia’s matchup with Kansas State is set to tip off at 8 p.m. from Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas.

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