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February 19, 2013

WVU suffers another Big 12 road loss, 71-61

Inconsistent play continued to plague the West Virginia basketball team Monday night, as the Mountaineers dropped below .500 in Big 12 Conference play yet again with a 71-61 loss at 13th ranked Kansas State.

Despite the efforts of Deniz Kilicli, who contributed 16 points on the night, the Mountaineers failed to gain any significant traction against the Wildcats, falling to 13-13 on the season, and perhaps seeing the NCAA Tournament hopes fade to black.

The recent hot streak appeared to continue for Deniz Kilicli in the Mountaineer's opening possession of the game, with the big man connecting on a sky hook for the early lead. However, the senior found himself in familiar territory early, as a quick, controversial foul conjured up potential flashbacks of Big 12 officiating issues.

Three quick fouls for the Mountaineers, and back-to-back defensive breakdowns, allowed the Wildcats to capitalize with hot-shooting, taking a 6-4 lead into the first media timeout.

Kansas State would continue to look behind the arc out of the timeout, going straight to their leading scorer Rodney McGruder in the corner to give the Wildcats a 3-3 mark from three to open up the contest.

Meanwhile, the Mountaineers continued to struggle with officials and turnovers, opening up with more turnovers (five) and fouls (seven) than points in the first seven minutes of the contest.

The Wildcats would continue to attack a struggling West Virginia squad on all areas of the court. The 13th ranked Kansas State squad carried a 16-4 lead over the Mountaineers into second media timeout, with West Virginia's two most consistent players over the past month - Kilicli and Eron Harris - sporting two early fouls a piece.

It would be much of same in the proceeding four minute span, as the Mountaineers failed to find many bright spots. Adding to the foul and turnover total, while showing little improvement overall.

And the Wildcats would take full advantage of the Mountaineer's blunders. Spreading the scoring around, and utilizing a variety of offensive sets, Kansas State continued their early tear, jumping out to a 22-8 lead at the under 8:00 media timeout.

Improvement would be slow but steady for the Mountaineers out of the timeout, as the Mountaineers appeared more disciplined on defense. While the squad gained little on the Wildcats entering the final media timeout, the bleeding stopped thanks in part to performance from the bench.

After seeing little playing time since 2013 began, Matt Humphrey provided the Mountaineers with a much-needed defensive spark, stealing an errant Kansas State pass in the front court and driving for the layup.

Still, despite a slight positive shift, the Mountaineers remained at a fairly significant 28-15 disadvantage.

That advantage would continue to grow for the Wildcats, as the home squad took full advantage of the Mountaineers from beyond the arc yet again. A Will Spradling three, his second of the half and fourth team three, pushed the Wildcat's lead to 18, 33-15.

Jabarie Hinds provided West Virginia with some relief as the half winded down, nailing the team's first three pointer of the game (1-8 for the half from the field), and connecting with a layup prior to the half.

However, the points would be little more than show, as the Mountaineers entered the locker room trailing 33-20 at the half.

The Wildcats quickly picked up where they left off as the second half got underway, jumping up to 21 point lead in the first four minutes.

Meanwhile the wheels began to fall off for the Mountaineers. With only a minute down in the game, freshman Eron Harris, who had carried the team on his back for much of conference play, collected his third foul, finding his way towards the bench.

Fouls continued to build up for the Mountaineers, many controversial at times, which prompted a frustrated Bob Huggins to collect a technical foul, arguing with the officiating crew. The Wildcats connected on both free throws to take a 43-22 lead into the half's first media timeout.

Perhaps Huggins' technical provided a spark to the Mountaineers, as West Virginia managed to attack the paint with Kilicli and Aaric Murray, going on a 7-0 run to cut the Wildcat's lead to 14.

A Kansas State three pointer by Angel Rodriguez would end West Virginia's run, leading to a 49-32 lead for the Wildcats at the media timeout.

After finding little playing time over the past month, Keaton Miles made his impact on the contest midway through the second half, connecting on a corner three, his first since the Oakland game on December 19, and showing hustle on the proceeding defensive possession. But even with Miles' three, the Mountaineers were unable to crack no less than a 14 point deficit prior to the under 8:00 media timeout.

Frustration finally boiled over for Harris as well during this period. The freshman, who showed noticeable emotion on the bench after collecting his fourth foul earlier in the half, was called for a technical after a slight shove to Kansas State's Spradling caught the attention of the officials, fouling out Harris in the process.

The Wildcats took full advantage of the situation, pushing their lead to 19 at the timeout.

Kansas State's lead would fluctuate between the high teens, low twenties for the remainder of the contest, with the Mountaineers displaying a few notable moments, closing the deficit to within nine. However, the final push would not be enough.

Final score: Kansas State 71, West Virginia 62.

The Mountaineers will return to action this Saturday when the 14th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys come to Morgantown. Tipoff is at 2pm.

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