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No. 15 West Virginia, Iowa State try to get back on track

No. 15 West Virginia travels to Iowa State on Wednesday for a Big 12 game at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, as both teams look to get back on the winning track after disappointing losses left them looking for answers as the conference season nears its midpoint.

West Virginia (16-5, 5-3 Big 12) returns to league play after losing 83-76 at home to Kentucky on Saturday as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

The Mountaineers were outrebounded 49-34 in the loss and by 16 total boards in the second half, when Kentucky roared back from 17-point deficit in the final 17 minutes. West Virginia managed just 28 points and only four offensive rebounds in the second half.

"We got outmanned," Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said after the loss to the Wildcats. "Plain and simple, we quit running offense. And we were up one rebound at halftime and we got outrebounded by 16 in the second half. You can't win playing like we did."

West Virginia has now lost four of its past five games and dropped from second in the Associated Press poll to 15th in two weeks.

"We are playing better teams," Huggins said. "Kansas is a talented group. Kentucky is a very talented group. I don't even know who the (heck) we lost to other than that.

"Oh, then the other ones were on the road, and we just didn't play very well. We haven't made a shot. That happens, so you have to do other things to compensate."

The game in Ames begins a stretch in which West Virginia will play three games in six days. At this point in the season, being the only Big 12 team in the Eastern time zone and distant from most of the other schools in the conference begins to take its toll on the Mountaineers.

"Scheduling has a lot to do with it," Huggins explained. "We will have, when the regular season is over, five one-day preps. That's the most in the league. Five one-day preps. Kansas is second, but they don't travel the way we travel."

"It's a hell of a lot harder than anybody realizes it is, and they don't want to talk about it. It's just kind of like, 'Hey, it is what it is. Everyone's doing the same thing,' when in reality, everyone isn't doing the same thing."

Iowa State (11-9, 2-6 Big 12) has lost two straight games and shares last place in the conference standings with Baylor.

The Cyclones set a season low when they scored 45 points in a home loss Saturday to Tennessee in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Those 45 points in a 23-point defeat were the lowest home total for Iowa State since 1959.

The Cyclones' past three losses have been by a combined 62 points, and things don't get any easier. Iowa State is 1-3 this season against the top 25, and eight of their remaining 10 regular-season games are against teams currently receiving votes in the poll.

After Wednesday, Iowa State plays at Baylor on Saturday, at 10th-ranked Texas Tech, at home against No. 12 Oklahoma, and at home against No. 7 Kansas.

Iowa State coach Steve Prohm must somehow find a way to keep his team on the right track.

"I'm just going to coach this team and get those guys better," Prohm said Monday. "This is all a part of it. I've been through different times where you have to fight like crazy -- nobody can see the end result -- but you've got to stay with it and stay with it. This is one of those times."

Nick Weiler-Babb, the Cyclones' starting point guard, will miss at least the next two games because of a nagging case of tendinitis in his left knee.

"Nick will be out at least the next week, possibly two weeks," Prohm said. "After visiting with the trainer and him, they just feel like he needs to get away (and) rest and see if that can help him get healthy."

Iowa State has won six of the 11 games in the series with West Virginia. The Mountaineers won the last four regular-season meetings in the series, but the Cyclones defeated the Mountaineers 80-74 in the final of the 2017 Big 12 Championship.

Updated January 30, 2018

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