A young West Virginia team was taken to school in Manhattan, Kan. Saturday afternoon in an 84-68 whipping at the hands of Kansas State.
The lesson: When the Mountaineers play with energy and intensity, they are capable of beating anyone. When they don’t, they’re capable of losing to everyone.
Except for a frantic, five-or-so-minute long stretch midway through the second half, the Mountaineers (14-3, 3-2 Big 12) played sloppy and lethargic basketball. It was as unsightly as the score indicates.
West Virginia has one of, if not the, best defenses in the country. That suffocating defense didn’t make the trip west.
West Virginia came into Saturday’s game allowing opponents to shoot 35 percent from the field. Kansas State (8-9, 1-4) shot 59.2 percent from the field and 9-of-18 from 3-point range. This from a team that came into the game with a field-goal percentage of 41.7 percent.
That’s not the result a team (KSU) getting hot in its home gym. It’s the result of an elite defensive team (WVU) not giving its typical effort.
The Mountaineers out-rebound their opponents by 7.6 rebounds per game. Saturday, they were plus-1 on the glass. Part of that is a result of how well Kansas State shot the ball. Part of it was the Mountaineers not playing up to their usual standard.
WVU wasn’t much better offensively. The Mountaineers were dreadful from the outside (6-of-22 on 3-point shots) and turned the ball over 18 times.
Gabe Osabuohien was one of the few bright spots in Saturday’s debacle. Osabuohien continued to be a spark plug of energy and effort for the Mountaineers. He had a season-high 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting and he pulled down five rebounds before fouling out.
Chase Harler also had his best offensive game of the season with a team-high 11 points. Miles McBride (11 points) was the only other Mountaineer in double figures.
It was obvious early and more obvious late that West Virginia took struggling Kansas State lightly. Giving lackadaisical effort is going to result in a loss most of the time on the road in Power 6 basketball. It happens all over the college basketball map. Earlier in the week, No. 3 Duke lost at Clemson. WVU is not immune to these types of games.
West Virginia will bounce back from this. Expect coach Bob Huggins to use this loss as the teaching tool that it should be. This wasn’t the Mountaineers first road conference loss this season (they’ve lost two of their three road Big 12 games so far). It won’t be their last.
But, hopefully, it will be their last that can be attributed to poor effort.