WVU Blows Big Lead At K-State, Falls to 0-3 In the Big 12
Kansas State managed its biggest comeback in school history, stunning West Virginia, 71-69 in Manhattan, Kansas.
WVU led by 21 points early in the second half, but the Wildcats came charging back to pull out the victory and improve to 11-4 overall and 1-2 in the Big 12. The previous largest comeback in KSU history was 17 points
Meanwhile the Mountaineers fell to 8-7 overall. They also dropped to 0-3 in the Big 12. It’s the first time in 17 years, since WVU’s Big East days, that it has started conference play with three straight losses. Ominously, West Virginia finished 8-20 in that 2001-02 season.
“I’m supposed to be smart enough to know what I’ve got,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins on his MSN postgame show. “To continue to trust those who don’t deserve to be trusted, that’s on me. I’m going to fix this.”
The end was the exact opposite of the beginning for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia sprinted out to a 20-3 lead in the first 11 minutes, as K-State was able to convert just one of its first 11 shots. The Wildcats eventually started to find the range, but WVU still took a 36-21 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Mountaineer starters Esa Ahmad, who was saddled with two early fouls and played only a few minutes in the first half, and Beetle Bolden did not register any points in the opening 20 minutes. But Lamont West and Derek Culver came off the bench to score 11 and eight points respectively to lead WVU to a 15-point halftime advantage.
West Virginia expanded that lead to 21 in the early going of the second half, but then the home team came charging back, hitting some threes and getting to foul line with regularity. The ‘Cats went on a 17-0 sprint to cut the Mountaineers’ lead to 42-36 with 13:10 remaining in the game.
WVU’s scoring drought stretched for nearly six minutes before Culver ended the pain with a tip-in.
That only slowed the Kansas State second half tide, though, and eventually the home team took a 68-66 lead on a four-point play from KSU’s Xavier Sneed with 2:30 remaining when Lamont West, on a late closeout, hit Sneed as he canned a 3-pointer.
The two clubs traded the lead after that, but West Virginia was unable to convert on a couple big offensive possessions in the final minute, as an Esa Ahmad turnover – one of five for the senior forward to go along with his nine points – and a missed jump hook by Culver spelled doom for the Mountaineers.
West led WVU in scoring with 21 points, while Culver had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Jermaine Haley was the only other Mountaineer in double figures in scoring, as he had 13 points.
“He’s carrying a whole lot of guys,” said Huggins of Culver, who finished with his second double-double in his five games in a Mountaineer uniform. “He just carried them.”
Meanwhile K-State’s Barry Brown was carrying the Wildcats, scoring 29 points, 20 of them in the second half. KSU sophomore Mike McGuirl added 18 points.
West Virginia will try to snap its three-game losing streak on Saturday when it hosts Oklahoma State (7-8/1-2). Tip off from the WVU Coliseum is slated for noon.
“We’re floundering around at 8-7,” added Huggins. “We’ve got to get a win Saturday and get going.”