WVU basketball: West Virginia expects raucous crowd tonight at Iowa State
AMES, Iowa - Exactly what happened the last time West Virginia and Iowa State played is unclear.
Well, not all of it. The Mountaineers won by 25 points and scored their most points in a conference game in eight years. It was over well before time ran out with WVU leading by 32 points at one stage, the sort of performance that left no doubt it was the home team's night.
Yet something happened late in the game that was never really clarified, but will be revisited tonight when the 11th-ranked Cyclones play host to WVU at 8 p.m. on the Big 12 Network (WQCW in the Charleston area). WVU guard Eron Harris was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul on Iowa State's Monte Morris.
It happened with 4:25 to play and moments after Iowa State's Dustin Hogue kicked WVU's Kevin Noreen as Hogue came down with a rebound. Hogue was given a Flagrant 1, though it wasn't announced in the game and isn't included in the box score - and the oversight seemed to drive the Coliseum crowd crazy that night.
That wasn't the end of it, though. After the game, Morris, who'd scooped up the loose ball Hogue lost and tried to score before Harris fouled him, said WVU's Juwan Staten told Morris the Harris foul was retaliation for Hogue's kick. Staten denied it and said there was no need to get into paybacks when WVU was crushing Iowa State.
The Mountaineers (15-12, 7-7 Big 12) haven't said much of anything about it since and are understandably more worried about losing their two games since then, but they're nevertheless prepared for something different tonight.
"Our game here got a little wild, a little physical the first time, so I'll definitely be expecting some of that at their home now," Staten said. "I know their crowd is going to be pumped up. It's going to be loud. That's something we need to stress to our guys who haven't been there. They need to be dialed in from the time we step off the plane until game time."
That would include Harris, who defended his foul on Morris' face by saying he went up to block the shot and swung down on the ball, but missed. WVU coach Bob Huggins said Monday he'll talk to Harris before the game to make sure he understands what may be in store for him, but after Saturday's loss to Baylor, Harris seemed as ready as ever.
"I don't really care about the fans, at all," he said. "They don't have anything to do with me."
Iowa State is 13-1 at home this season and the loss was a 77-70 setback against No. 5 Kansas, which clinched its 10th straight regular season Big 12 title Monday. The average home crowd is 14,165, which is almost double WVU's average. The Mountaineers are 2-7 overall and 0-4 in Big 12 road games when the crowd is larger than 10,000, and they know what to expect at Hilton Coliseum.
"A lot of fans in the Big 12 are really good for their teams as far as giving their support and booing everything for the opposing team, but Iowa State is on a different level," Staten said. "It gets really loud in there. Their fans are definitely supportive and make it a tough place to play, which is why you have to have tough skin when you go in there to play."
WVU has played competitively and lost at Kansas, which leads the Big 12 in home attendance, and Oklahoma State, which is fifth. The Mountaineers were also blown out at Kansas State (third) and Texas (sixth) and has a game left at Oklahoma (fourth) after experiencing what the locals call Hilton Magic.
"In my opinion," Staten said, "Iowa State is the toughest place to play in the Big 12."
Perhaps more important to the Mountaineers than their recent struggles, especially on the road, is their recent success against Iowa State. WVU led by double digits for the final 29:25 last month and the Big 12's worst defense had a good time against the conference's best offense. Iowa State shot 36.6percent (26-for-71) and missed 19 of 23 3-point shots.
"I think that we can beat them again," Harris said. "If we play our game, we can beat them again and win at their place. It's going to be hard, obviously, but we're going to work on it and work toward it to finish up the season strong."
Melvin Ejim, the conference's leading scorer who set the Big 12 record with 48 points two days earlier, made his first shot 21 seconds into the game and missed his final eight. He finished with a season-low six points. The Cyclones, sixth in the nation in scoring and No. 1 in assists, still finished with five players in double figures. They've scored at least 70 points in every game, something no other team has done, while Ejim, Georges Niang and DeAndre Kane could become the first set of three players to average 17 points per game in Big 12 play.
Their bad night in the Coliseum seemed like an anomaly at the time, and the Cyclones haven't lost since and are 6-1 in February. If they beat WVU, they'll have seven Big 12 wins in a month for the first time ever and double figure Big 12 wins for three straight seasons for the first time ever.
"You've got to give a lot of credit to West Virginia," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They played a very complete game and exposed us in a lot of areas. The thing for us is we were really able to get back and focus on the basics on the defensive end of the court, and we've been much better since that game.
"Was it a wakeup call? I don't know. I guess at times over the course of the season where you have a game like that it can show your guys they're probably not as good as they think they are. That was certainly one of those nights for us, but we've bounced back and played pretty good basketball since."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu.