No. 19 West Virginia likes it best when the games it plays are ugly, disheveled affairs where they can muddy things up with turnovers and offensive rebounds. However, its game against Kansas State on Saturday was probably even a bit uglier than even Bob Huggins would have enjoyed.
The Mountaineers escaped Manhattan, Kansas on Saturday with an 87-83 win over the Wildcats in double-overtime where neither team had its best showing. The two teams combined for 30 turnovers, shot 6-for-39 from the 3-point line, and were sent to the foul line a total of 74 times in the Big 12 opener for both teams.
Ultimately though, Bob Huggins’ group was just able to outlast the Wildcats by getting key performances from depth players. Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip each had career-high scoring performances, with Paige pouring 25 points and Phillip adding 14. The Mountaineers needed it, as big man Devin Williams had the worst game of his season. He ended up with only seven points and five rebounds, and generally looked a bit lethargic throughout the game.
Starting guard Daxter Miles also drew the ire of his coach near the end of regulation for a silly play where he got a technical foul for pulling himself up on the rim on an attempted dunk after a foul had already been called.
West Virginia’s Daxter Miles gets technical foul for hanging on rim with under minute to play. pic.twitter.com/jaZiol9PRp
— Joe Rodgers (@Rodgers_PG) January 2, 2016
The win moves West Virginia out to 12-1 on the season, although the jury is still a bit out on just how good this group is. On one hand, it’s certainly a deep team that has a variety of players who can beat you in different ways. That means that guys like Williams can have off nights and the Mountaineers won’t pay the price with an assured loss.
But on the other hand, the Huggins’ group still doesn’t have a win over a top-50 opponent according to KenPom as each of Richmond and San Diego State have taken on some rough losses. Are they genuinely a top-15-to-20 team? Or are they more of a middle-of-the-pack team? I’d lean toward the former, but we’ll find out more soon. The Mountaineers get back-to-back games against Kansas and Oklahoma starting on Jan. 12.
Kansas State has quite a bit to prove still. The Wildcats are now 10-3, but they also don’t have a top-50 win and are now 0-3 against top-25 teams. It’s clear that Bruce Weber’s bunch is better off than they were last season at this point. But are they good enough to get back to the NCAA Tournament? This could have been a pretty big win to get a run like that started, but they ultimately just came up a bit short. We’ll see if they can get the necessary quality wins they’ll need this season later in Big 12 play.