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Finding enough healthy bodies will be the key for Kansas State as the Wildcats travel to Morgantown, W.Va., for a Saturday afternoon Big 12 contest against West Virginia.

Kansas State (8-5, 0-2 Big 12) lost its most recent game, 70-57, against No. 14 Texas on Tuesday when the Wildcats had only seven scholarship players available. Their starting front court (Davion Bradford and Kaosi Ezeagu) and point guard (Markquis Nowell) all missed the game because of the health and safety protocol. Several other key contributors were absent as well, as were head coach Bruce Weber and associate head coach Chris Lowery.

The Wildcats led for most of the first half and held a 35-29 lead at intermission. But with mounting foul trouble, they ran out of gas in the second half.

“It started with our physicality, it started with our defense,” acting head coach Shane Southwell said after the game. “I think we did a good job of going in and out of our zone to give them a different look than what you are accustomed to when you get a Kansas State team. Going to the second half we didn’t sustain that physicality, that energy.

“We were short-handed, but we fought hard. But we don’t accept any moral victories. Next step is to get better,” he said. “Obviously we’re growing but we’re gonna stay connected. And we’ve got a strong team with good morale in that locker room.”

The fight isn’t over for Kansas State. Weber said Friday that he won’t make the trip to Morgantown, and neither will Southwell. He is now out because of COVID-19 and Jermaine Henderson will serve as acting coach.

West Virginia (11-2, 0-1 Big 12) lost its Big 12 opener Jan. 1 at then-No. 17 Texas, then had its game against TCU postponed last Monday.

Against the Longhorns, West Virginia also was playing short-handed. The Mountaineers were without leading scorer Taz Sherman (20.9 points per game), top defender Gabe Osabuohien and guard Kobe Johnson. Much like Kansas State against Texas on Tuesday, West Virginia had no answer for the Longhorns’ depth.

“Taz Sherman makes a huge difference,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said on his postgame radio show. “In my mind he’s the best player in the league. You lose the best player in the league and it’s going to have an impact, particularly when you’re playing a team that has the best players from a lot of different leagues from the portal.”

But there was good news Friday for the Mountaineers. Huggins said that he expects to have his full roster available against Kansas State.

“Nobody has any issues,” he said.

–Field Level Media