MORGANTOWN — If having Taz Sherman, Gabe Osabuohien and Kobe Johnson out for a game last week due to COVID-19 protocols seemed like an obstacle, it could’ve been so much worse.
Just ask Kansas State, which travels to the Coliseum on Saturday.
The Wildcats (8-5, 0-2 Big 12) played last week without head coach Bruce Weber and with eight players out to either injury or COVID protocol.
“I was hoping we’d be on the better end of it by now,” Weber said during a Zoom call Friday. “We’re not.”
Not by a long shot.
Weber will not be making the trip to Morgantown. He said he continued to test positive on Friday. Shane Southwell, who took over as K-State’s acting head coach last week has since tested positive and will not be making the trip, either.
Assistant coach Jermaine Henderson and graduate assistant Zack Price will be the only coaches on the Wildcats’ bench.
“They ran practice (Friday) and they’ll try to do their best at West Virginia,” Weber said.
K-State guard Markquis Nowell has been released from COVID protocol and will be available today, but the Wildcats had two additional players test positive, leaving them with just seven players available for the game.
Weber did not name the two additional players who tested positive.
Big 12 rules state as long as a team has six players and one coach available, that team must continue to play.
“It’s a difficult situation; obviously it’s frustrating,” Weber said. “We’ve stayed around that number according to Big 12 rules to have enough to play. I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s fair. I’ve expressed that to the league office last year and this year.”
The news is much better for the Mountaineers (11-2, 0-1). WVU head coach Bob Huggins said Friday that Sherman, Osabuohien and Johnson have all returned to practice and will play today.
“We don’t have any other issues at all,” Huggins said. “They’ve practiced very little. I wouldn’t say enough to get back into shape.”
Sherman, the Big 12’s leading scorer at 20.9 points per game, sat out last week’s 74-59 loss at Texas, as did Osabuohien and Johnson.
West Virginia struggled early without them, but did have others step up.
Forward Jalen Bridges had 18 points and connected on four 3-pointers, Dimon Carrigan added nine rebounds and blocked three shots, and Malik Curry came off the bench to score 14 points.
“I hope that (Bridges) kind of came out of his shell, so to speak,” Huggins said. “Those other guys have encouraged J.B. to shoot the ball as much early on in the year as I was. They want him to score the ball. Taz and Sean (McNeil) both know we’ll be a much-better team if we have all three of those guys making shots and being aggressive offensively.”
As to how much Sherman will play today coming off the COVID protocol, Huggins said that would be left up to Sherman.
“I think it’s kind of up to them,” Huggins said. “Those guys have played enough and been around enough that they’ll tell me whenever they need a break.”
KANSAS STATE at WVU
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: WVU Coliseum
TV: ESPN+ (Online subscription needed)
RADIO: 100.9 JACK-FM