Kansas St.-West Virginia Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- Good balance and quality depth have keyed Kansas State's strong start.
The No. 18 Wildcats might need to rely on both while trying for a sixth consecutive victory when they visit West Virginia on Saturday in a Big 12 matchup.
Senior guard Rodney McGruder is the only Kansas State player averaging in double figures with 14.7 points, but five others score at least 6.3 per game and four more average at least 3.7. Five different players have led the Wildcats (12-2, 1-0) in scoring while 11 of the 14 who have seen action average at least 11.1 minutes.
"That's a huge factor," McGruder said.
Kansas State likely needs to maintain that formula while playing three games over eight days. Looking to match their longest winning stretch from last season, the Wildcats return to action after a 73-67 home win over then-No. 22 Oklahoma State last Saturday.
McGruder scored all but two of his 28 points in the second half as the Wildcats appeared to be the fresher team down the stretch. Eight Kansas State players logged at least 14 minutes while four Cowboys played 31 or more.
"You got to have some other guys," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "McGruder's not going to be able to win it every night by himself. You have to have other guys step up, and you have to give Kansas State credit for that.
"They're very well-coached, they have some veteran players. They're very good."
As has been coach Bruce Weber's calling card over the years, Kansas State ranks among the national leaders allowing 56.9 points per game. The Wildcats will try to continue that strong defensive play in their first true road contest since a 65-62 win at George Washington on Dec. 8. They dropped their last game away from home, 68-52 against then-No. 14 Gonzaga in Seattle on Dec. 15.
Looking for a fourth consecutive Big 12 road win, Kansas State is making its first trip to Morgantown since a 49-44 win Dec. 12, 1949. The teams met Dec. 8, 2011, in Wichita when McGruder scored 20 in an 85-80 double-overtime loss in West Virginia coach Bob Huggins' first game against the school he guided to a 23-12 record and NIT appearance in his lone season in Manhattan in 2006-07.
With Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant gone from last season's squad, West Virginia does not have the same star power, but the Mountaineers (8-6, 1-1) have won four of five and are fresh off a 57-53 overtime win at Texas on Wednesday for their first Big 12 victory.
Though the Mountaineers have scored 57 points in each of their first two league games while shooting a combined 30.3 percent, they overcame a 13-point deficit to beat the Longhorns.
"Hopefully this gets us back to being my team," Huggins told the school's official website. "They were not my team before because they did not compete the way we need to compete."
Like Kansas State, West Virginia is a well-balanced team with seven players averaging at least 5.2 points. Six-foot-10 La Salle transfer Aaric Murray, averaging team bests of 10.6 points and 7.7 rebounds, scored 12 and grabbed 10 boards against the Longhorns.
With losses to Gonzaga and second-ranked Michigan this season, the Mountaineers have dropped seven straight against Top 25 opponents since a 74-62 win over No. 9 Georgetown last January.
Updated January 11, 2013