Mountaineers Frustrated At K-State
No. 12 West Virginia came crashing to earth in Manhattan, Kansas, Saturday afternoon, as K-State took down the Mountaineers, 84-68.
The loss ended a three-game win streak for WVU, dropping its record to 14-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big 12 Conference.
Kansas State’s point total equaled the most given up by the Mountaineers this season, as the 84 matched those in WVU’s 94-84 season-opening victory over Akron back on Nov. 8.
The Mountaineers can’t pout for long after this one, as they have a quick turnaround, hosting Texas (12-5/2-3) Monday night. That game from the WVU Coliseum tips off at 7 p.m. and will be televised by ESPNU.
West Virginia came to the Bramlage Coliseum nationally ranked and Kansas State was winless in the Big 12 (0-4 in the league and 8-9 overall), but the resumes were flipped from the outset on Saturday.
The Mountaineers endured their worst defensive performance of the season, as K-State found and made open shots from all distances.
“We weren’t ready,” stated West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins on the MSN postgame radio show. “We weren’t ready yesterday (in practice), and we weren’t ready today.
“This is such a mental game. (K-State) was desperate, and I told our guys that,” added WVU’s head coach. “The talk in the media around here was, ‘They’re desperate, 0-4 in the league.’ Our guys weren’t desperate.”
Its defensive issues started for WVU basically from the tipoff.
The Wildcats converted 15-of-26 field goal attempts (58 percent) in the opening half and 5-of-8 three-pointers (63 percent) in that period. On the other end, West Virginia managed to make only 11-of-30 (37 percent) from the field and 1-of-10 from three (10 percent) in the first 20 minutes.
Things weren’t much better for the Mountaineers in the second half, especially defensively, as K-State was 14-of-23 from the field (61 percent) and 4-of-10 from three (40).
WVU had allowed only one opponent to shoot better than 40 percent for a game previously this season (Rhode Island at 48.5 percent in an 86-81 West Virginia victory). The Wildcats went smashing through that barrier, though, making 59.2 percent (29-of-49) of their shots against the Mountaineers.
Kansas State forged an early lead in the opening 10 minutes and then really exploded, going on a 16-4 run to close the first half, and took a 42-25 lead into the locker room at the midway point.
West Virginia held a 21-12 rebounding advantage in the first 20 minutes, but turned its 12 offensive rebounds into just six points. Meanwhile the Mountaineers had 13 turnovers, compared to just six for K-State in the first half, and the Wildcats used that turnover advantage to outdistance WVU 22-4 in points off turnovers.
The first half was bad for West Virginia, and the second half started much like the first.
The home team pushed its lead to as large as 24 (53-29) five minutes in, but with their backs against the wall, the Mountaineers finally started to battle.
A full-court press helped shake loose seven K-State turnovers in nine possessions, and suddenly West Virginia was on a 15-0 dash that was part of a larger 25-7 run. In a blink the Kansas State lead, which was 24 only seven minutes previously, was cut to 60-54.
Just when it appeared WVU may have a chance to put together a miraculous comeback, though, the Wildcats took advantage of some ill-advised Mountaineer fouls. The home team went 10-of-12 on free throws in the final eight minutes to reverse West Virginia’s momentum. The ‘Cats finished the game on a 24-14 run to secure the victory.
WVU turned the ball over just five times in the second half, but it was outrebounded 16-9 in that period.
Chase Harler and Deuce McBride led the Mountaineers in scoring for the game with 11 points each. Gabe Osabuohien added 10 points, which is his career high at West Virginia.
Cartier Diarra topped the Wildcats’ scoring effort with 25 points, while Xavier Sneed and DaJuan Gordon had 16 and 15 respectively for KSU.
“They took it to us from the beginning,” said Huggins. “We missed a layup at the beginning of the game, and we must have missed three or four layups in the first three or four minutes of the game … layups! We shot 50 percent from the free throw line (actually 12-of-22). How are you going to win when you do that? We turned the ball over 18 times again. We’re not going win that way. They’ve been told that and told that and told that and told that. It was so bad yesterday that I said, ‘If you throw it away, you’re going to run.’ And we ran yesterday … some.
“You can’t explain to them that you can’t get this back,” concluded WVU’s head coach. “It’s gone, a great opportunity, gone.”