No. 17 West Virginia will try to bounce back from a disappointing loss when it tips off against host Iowa State in a Big 12 contest on Tuesday evening in Ames, Iowa.
The Mountaineers (11-5, 4-3 Big 12) are coming off an 85-80 loss at home against Florida on Saturday as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. West Virginia gave up 48 points in the second half while coughing up a five-point halftime advantage.
Not surprisingly, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins wants to see a better effort going forward.
"Defense to a large degree is about heart and about competing," Huggins said after the loss to Florida. "When you don't compete, you get exposed. They're just not as competitive as the guys we've had in the past. How do you not dive on the floor for a loose ball in a game like this?"
Huggins' criticism could light a fire under his players as they turn their attention to Iowa State (2-9, 0-6), which sits at the bottom of the conference standings. The Cyclones have not enjoyed a victory since Dec. 20, enduring five losses, four postponements and a cancellation since then.
Iowa State's latest loss was its worst yet, a 95-56 defeat against Mississippi State on Saturday in the same Big 12/SEC Challenge. The short-handed Cyclones played without Nick Schuster and starters Solomon Young, Javan Johnson and Tre Jackson because of health and safety protocols.
The absence of four starters -- Jalen Coleman-Lands returned on Saturday -- in recent games means that Iowa State coach Steve Prohm has had to rely much more on inexperienced players.
"It's great ... if these young guys can take advantage of these next couple games," Prohm said. "Continue to grow, continue to get better, (and) hopefully as we go into the second half of conference play, we can be a little bit deeper, we can have more experience and we can put ourselves in a position to finish the right way.
"I'm looking at it, using it as a positive."
Freshman Jaden Walker agreed with his coach's assessment, although he acknowledged that the situation has not been easy for him and his teammates. The Cyclones have been forced to alter their practices and limit team drills with only eight available players as of late.
"I feel like it's allowing us to learn each other better and learning how to play well together without the four starters that are missing," Walker said recently. "We've got to build off of that, and once they get back, add on that."
This will be the second meeting between the teams this season. In their first meeting Dec. 18 in Morgantown, W.Va., the Mountaineers held on for a 70-65 win against the pesky Cyclones.
Miles McBride had 18 points for West Virginia, including a pair of free throws to put his team ahead with 21 seconds remaining. Derek Culver (18 points, 12 rebounds) had a double-double.
Iowa State was led by Rasir Bolton with a season-best 25 points. Yet the team struggled to protect the ball, committing 21 turnovers.
The Cyclones are 2-5 at home this season. The Mountaineers are 3-2 on the road.
--Field Level Media