MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — The story of last year’s game was just too odd for Bob Huggins.
The West Virginia head coach and former Kansas State coach was taking his team to Wichita to face his previous employers, who just happened to be coached by one of his best friends in Frank Martin.
His team also came in on short rest, but managed to beat K-State 85-80 in a double-overtime game on Dec. 8, 2011.
But things were different on Saturday when the Wildcats went on the road, with a new coach, and faced Huggins in his own environment. And this time, it was the Wildcats who managed to get the upper hand, winning 65-64 behind coach Bruce Weber.
It was just the second time the Wildcats had defeated a former head coach in nine tries, beating Lon Kruger and UNLV 95-80 on Dec. 12, 2009.
When the teams met last season, they were seemingly going in the same direction — both playing well and both looking like they were headed to the NCAA tournament.
But this time, in the first of two scheduled meetings this season, the Wildcats are the only team that looks like a tournament team, while the Mountaineers are looking more like a team with work to do.
Despite his teams’ struggles this season, the Mountaineers seemingly came ready to play on Saturday, shooting better than their season averages in field goal and 3-point percentages.
Still, Huggins said it wasn’t enough to get the job done.
“I thought we competed for the most part, the problem is we don’t do it for a consistent period of time,” he said. “Did all nine guys that played compete? Absolutely not — most of them did. We played hard, I thought we had every chance to win it.”
There were too many negatives for Huggins to point out about his team’s performance.
They easily won the foul battle, 22-12, but struggled to make their free throws, shooting just 54 percent from the line. And then there were the rebounds. Playing against one of the better rebounding teams in the country, the Mountaineers grabbed just four rebounds in the first half.
Even though his team finished one rebound below the Wildcat’s total of 28 for the game, the West Virginia coach was astonished at the number, and his team’s foul shooting.
“We get four rebounds the first half? Four?” Huggins said. “Going into the Texas game, I believe we had made more free throws then anyone in the power six conferences, and then we go 12 for 22. Every game is going to be close and you certainly can’t miss free throws — then every call becomes a whole lot more important.”
K-State and West Virginia will play again on Feb. 18, at Bramlage Coliseum in a Big Monday contest on ESPN.