WVU downs K-State for 76-72 win
With a recent two-game gut-shot leaving the Mountaineers dangling on the ropes, Tuesday night's contest in Morgantown against the Kansas State Wildcats proved to be of utmost importance.
And by the quality of play, West Virginia took that realization to heart.
With 10 of 12 players recording points, the Mountaineers worked to put up an impressive offensive showcase early and weathering a late K-State surge to defeat the Wildcats 76-72.
It was a mixed bag for the Mountaineers early in the contest as Head Coach Bob Huggins showed a decent amount of frustration with the initial play. Following consecutive missed assignments defensively, allowing for easy Kansas State baskets, the coach called a timeout to rip into his squad for its defensive struggles.
However, where one door appeared closed early another was wide open. With recent offensive struggles dominating the discussion for the Mountaineers, the first five minutes of Tuesday's contest looked to put those issues to rest.
West Virginia opened the matchup going 7-7 from the field, including a trio of threes from Nate Adrian, Gary Browne and Daxter Miles to build an 18-16 advantage.
The Mountaineers would continue that early hot streak from the field exiting the first media timeout with a strong swing in momentum. The patented Press Virginia look frustrated the Wildcats as the game approached the 12-minute mark, with the Mountaineers forcing three quick turnovers, leading to a K-State timeout.
These turnovers also managed to turn into baskets as well, something Coach Huggins had been harping on over the past few games. A quick 5-2 run exiting the break put the Mountaineers up 23-19 at the second media break.
Things began to slow down for both squads midway through the first half with the shots stopping to fall at a whim and fouls being flung left and right. Both squads found their respective ways into the bonus early as the Big 12 officials appeared to call yet another tight contest.
When they were not on the foul line, however, the Mountaineers found some production from Adrian. The sophomore forward, who has had his fair share off offensive struggles this season, tagged on a nice cutting layup, with a heads-up from Devin Williams, to help give West Virginia a 27-21 lead at the under eight-minute media timeout.
Heading into the latter part of the half, both squads continued to swap momentum as the game progressed. A circus missed dunk for Tarik Phillip was followed up shortly thereafter by a second-chance slam for Thomas Gipson, continuing a back-and-forth sequence between the two squads.
But a strong performance in the paint by Brandon Watkins would keep the Mountaineers ahead. The sophomore forward managed to put up a second-chance layup of his own for an And-1 opportunity. And after missing the free throw, Watkins hustled again into the paint to clean up his own miss with another basket.
The quick turnaround for Watkins helped give West Virginia a 35-29 advantage with 3:35 left in the half.
Following the final media timeout, the accelerator was mashed to the floor for the Mountaineers.
A Nino Williams layup cut the Wildcat deficit to four points with 3:07 left, before West Virginia put together an 8-0 run in less than two minutes, forcing a Kansas State timeout. The run was sparked by a pair of dunks from Jaysean Paige and Watkins, with two of the four baskets coming off Wildcat turnovers.
Paige would add on a straightaway three pointer to end the half, sending the Mountaineers into the locker room with a 46-35 advantage.
One question would stand before the start of the second half - would West Virginia be able to parlay its strong finish into positive momentum entering the second half?
Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, that answer would be an early no.
Despite struggling mightily to end the first half, the Wildcats exited the locker room with a bit more fire than West Virginia. Kansas State would put together a quick 5-0 spark, in an attempt to draw the air out of the Mountaineer's tires, cutting the deficit to six.
But despite the hot start West Virginia would quickly regain its mojo. The Mountaineers would make up the five points quickly on the back of Jevon Carter, whose driving layup and open three pointer helped put the West Virginia advantage back into double digits at the first media timeout.
That spark would not remain long for West Virginia as the second half quickly evolved into a game of runs. Kansas State would manage to draw back to within five or six of the Mountaineers, but not anymore during this back-and-forth span.
At the under 12-minute media timeout the Mountaineers held a 57-50 advantage.
West Virginia would again pull ahead by double figures exiting the break behind the back of Watkins. Continuing his strong night, the forward would put up four quick points, two from the line and another coming off a fast break layup that was set up thanks to a Browne steal.
The sequence would give Watkins 14 points on the night and put the Mountaineers ahead 61-50 with 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
Following the under eight-minute media timeout the Wildcats would again cut into the Mountaineer lead. A three pointer for Justin Edwards put Kansas State down a mere seven points with six minutes to play and momentum seemingly swinging in their favor.
But that momentum would be halted thanks to a long three pointer by Paige on the ensuing possession. The basket gave Paige his tenth point of the night and put the Mountaineers back ahead by ten.
That lead, however, would not last long as a quick 9-0 run for the Wildcats put Kansas State to within one with 3:03 remaining. This spurt forced Huggins to call a timeout in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
The timeout would fail to accomplish that goal as Kansas State would take the lead thanks to two Williams free throws with two minutes remaining.
Kansas State's lead would not last long, however, as a layup and subsequent steal for Devin Williams put West Virginia up 71-69 with one minute to play.
West Virginia would be unable to capitalize on that Williams steal, but luckily for the Mountaineers Nigel Johnson would be unable to connect on two free throw attempts in the subsequent series.
Kansas State would shift into foul mode, sending Browne to the line following the inbound, and Carter on the subsequent possession with a flagrant foul.
The intentional foul call would give the Mountaineers just enough to pull away for the victory.
Final: West Virginia 76, Kansas State 72.