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January 18, 2014

Kansas State dominates WVU, 78-56

Continuing the recent streak of struggles, the West Virginia Mountaineers failed to find any traction on the court Saturday afternoon in Manhattan, KS, dropping a third-straight contest to the Kansas State Wildcats, 78-56.

However, there was reason for hope early.

It appeared that Eron Harris left his struggles back home once the game tipped off in Manhattan. The sophomore guard, who had seen his play slump in recent weeks, regained some much-needed confidence in his shot early against the Wildcats, connecting on back-to-back quick-release three pointers to cap an 8-0 West Virginia run.

The quick outside spurt from Harris helped carry the Mountaineers into the first media timeout with an 8-5 advantage.

Kansas State finally managed to parlay a sold out "Octagon of Doom" into some momentum exiting the timeout. A quick foul from Kevin Noreen, giving Wildcat All-American Thomas Gipson an and-1 opportunity, helped spark a 9-1 run, giving Kansas State a 12-9 advantage with 13 minutes remaining in the half.

West Virginia big man Devin Williams, coming off his worst game of the season against Texas, broke out of his recent slump to break the Wildcat run. A midrange jumper from the Mountaineer center, his second of the game, brought the Mountaineers to within one among a rowdy Kansas State crowd.

The Wildcats would quickly answer on the ensuing possession with a corner three from Will Spradling, pushing Kansas State into a 15-11 advantage at the second media break.

Exiting the timeout, West Virginia's early offensive momentum seemingly hit a brick wall. A nearly four-minute scoring drought, broken by a pair of free throws from Harris, allowed the Wildcats to spark another lengthy run, pushing the lead to seven points with eight minutes to play in the half.

Meanwhile, the West Virginia offense continued to fall stagnant. A floater from Gary Browne briefly provided the Mountaineers hope at the 7:06 mark, breaking a nearly six-minute field goal drought, to cut into the Kansas State lead at 21-15.

But from there, little success would follow. Struggling both off the boards and from the field, the Mountaineers allowed Kansas State to gain as much as a 13-point advantage with five minutes remaining in the half.

The Mountaineers would finally discover a hint of offensive momentum from Juwan Staten, as the guard cut the deficit to single digits with a quick midrange jumper. But ultimately, the Wildcats continued to pour it on the Mountaineers.

Another three pointer by Shane Southwell out of the media timeout, his second of the half and tenth point of the game, pushed the Wildcats ahead by 14 with 2:30 remaining in the half.

And on the ensuing possession, Southwell would again throw a dagger into the heart of West Virginia's defense. The senior Kansas State guard found a streaking Wesley Iwundu across the baseline, lobbing the ball up from the three-point line for the Iwundu alley-oop slam to maintain a 35-21 lead.

Southwell, and the remainder of the Wildcat offense continued to pour it on West Virginia, helping Kansas State take a 37-24 advantage into the locker room at halftime.

A lot of the Wildcat's first half success came from Mountaineer struggles. As both teams entered the locker room at half, Kansas State held onto an impressive 58 percent shooting from the field, while on the flip side, West Virginia displayed a 30 percent performance.

Once the second half got underway, the Wildcats picked up right where they left off offensively - running through Southwell. Right out of the gate, the senior Kansas State guard connected with his third three pointer of the half, giving the Wildcats a 16-point advantage.

Kansas State would connect with another three pointer several possessions later, putting the Mountaineers down by 20, but a quick answer by Harris from beyond the arc kept the game from blowing up for West Virginia.

The Mountaineers tried to push the pace against the Wildcats following Harris' three, with a coast-to-coast layup from Staten cutting the deficit to 45-30. But even with the quick spurt, Kansas State would prove to be too much in small and large doses.

A jumper and subsequent slam from Gipson on consecutive possessions pushed the Wildcat lead to 19 at the first media timeout.

Things would get even worse for the Mountaineers as the half continued to tick away. A pair of threes from Marcus Foster and Southwell continued to add onto the humiliation, extending the West Virginia deficit to an almost insurmountable 25 points with 13 minutes remaining in the contest.

Exiting the under 12:00 media timeout, West Virginia showed its first sign of life since the first half with a quick five points from Harris. The mini-spurt put the Mountaineer's deficit under 20 points, trailing 57-39 with 11:12 remaining.

But the spurt would ultimately fail to provide the Mountaineers any further momentum. A layup and dunk on consecutive possessions by Foster pushed the Wildcat lead back to 23 points, forcing Coach Bob Huggins to call a timeout with 5:55 remaining in the contest.

The Kansas State lead would hover around 20 points for the remaining five minutes, as the Wildcats ultimately cruised to an easy victory.

Final: Kansas State 78, West Virginia 56.

The Mountaineers return to action Wednesday as they meet Texas Tech in Morgantown. Tipoff is set for 7pm.

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