MANHATTAN — Kansas State began the Big 12 basketball season in impressive fashion, picking up a 16-point road win at Iowa State on Friday.
Now, K-State must back it up.
The bonus of a road win would be negated if the Wildcats aren’t able to hold home court, a tough assignment with No. 7 West Virginia coming into Bramlage Coliseum for a New Year’s Day matinee at 4 p.m. Monday.
“We talked about home floor all year, since we played Missouri State in the exhibition,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “You don’t do it just because of the crowd, you do it because of how you play. Your determination, your defense, sharing the basketball, your confidence and poise — those are the things that really make a difference.
“You got one up on a lot of people because you got a road win,” said Weber, although road teams won four of the five Big 12 openers. “Now, can we maintain at home? That’s the big thing.”
The Wildcats entered Big 12 play with a 10-2 record but were still an unproven product with a No. 298-rated nonconference strength of schedule. While Iowa State isn’t a conference power this season, any victory at Hilton Coliseum is noteworthy and the Wildcats won going away, turning a three-point halftime lead into a 91-75 victory. It was their first win in Ames since 2011.
“We got a little momentum getting our first Big 12 win on the road,” said Dean Wade, who scored a career-high 34 points against the Cyclones. “Going back home to Bramlage, I think it will be an exciting game.”
West Virginia (12-1, 1-0) also picked up a road win Friday, rallying from a seven-point halftime deficit for an 85-79 victory at Oklahoma State.
K-State has a strong backcourt with junior guards Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes, who combined for 44 points at Iowa State, and the Mountaineers feature a talented senior guard tandem with Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles.
The experience of Stokes and Brown will be important in preparing for West Virginia’s pressure defense with a short turnaround from Friday to Monday. The Mountaineers average 10.5 steals a game while forcing opponents into an average of 20.9 turnovers.
“It’s tough,” Weber said. “From what I’ve watched and from coach (Chester) Frazier’s scout, they are pressing but not quite as much as they have done. The first half (Friday) they got in a lot foul trouble and had to back off and go zone a little bit.
“I didn’t tell them, but in one of the practices this (past) week we went against press. I said Iowa State presses so we have to be ready. I was trying to get some preparation (for West Virginia). We get home late (Friday) and practice has to be sharp and quick and it has to be a good cerebral thing where we know what we’re doing against the press.”
While preparation time is short between the first two Big 12 games, Weber said this period during semester break is vital for setting up the remainder of the season.
“When we came back from break we had almost four days, which is as long as we’ve ever had,” Weber said. “We said this is the time (that determines) which way you go as a team and as an individual. You have all this time, you don’t have school. We get them in the gym twice a day … shooting in the morning. We said you’re an NBA player for the next three weeks and you have to put the time in and take a step.”