Led by a career-high performance from Juwan Staten, the West Virginia Mountaineers held off a late-game spurt to secure its fifth Big 12 win of the season, topping the Kansas State Wildcats 81-71 Saturday in the Coliseum.
The up and down afternoon started early for the Mountaineers, as a number of defensive breakdowns allowed Kansas State to jump out with an early advantage. Utilizing a distinct advantage in the post, the Wildcats managed to jump out to an early 8-3 lead with a variety of back-cuts highlighting the offensive attack.
But continuing the recent trend for West Virginia, a guard decided to take the early game into his hands. Terry Henderson, coming off an 11-point performance against Baylor, caught fire early from beyond the arc, scoring five-consecutive points to tie the contest at eight entering the first media timeout.
West Virginia would manage to continue this early hot-streak from behind the arc, maintaining the stalemate at 17 entering the second media timeout. A steal and coast-to-coast layup by Juwan Staten put the Mountaineers ahead for the first time in the contest, with a three pointer from Nathan Adrian extending the advantage on the subsequent possession.
But two quick fouls on Gary Browne, the first of which helped result in the three pointer from Marcus Foster, tied the game with 12 minutes remaining in the half.
Both teams would go on a two-minute lull from the field before a mid-range jumper from Foster rolled along the rim for two points. The dry spell took some energy out of the Coliseum, with many fans anticipating Foster's basket to spark a Wildcat's run.
However, Henderson and Staten had other plans. On the ensuing possession, Staten lobbed a floater from three-point land above several Wildcats and towards a streaking Henderson. The sophomore leap off his feet, catching the ball in midair and slamming it down for a thunderous dunk. The basket tied the ballgame at 19.
The Mountaineers would add eight more points prior to the under eight media timeout, and with a blown point-blank layup opportunity for Kansas State, momentum shifted in West Virginia's favor in the Coliseum. With 6:08 remaining in the half, the Mountaineers maintained a 29-22 lead.
West Virginia's momentum, however, would not be sustained for the ensuing two minutes. The Mountaineers went on another lengthy drought on the scoreboard, with Eron Harris breaking spell from the free throw line with 4:30 remaining in the half.
Kansas State tried to take advantage of West Virginia's offensive dry spell, with a three pointer from Shane Southwell and floater by Wil Spradling closing the gap to within four. The Mountaineers still maintained a 31-27 advantage with 3:40 left in the half.
West Virginia managed to withstand the quick surge from Kansas State, entering the locker room at halftime with a 39-31 lead.
When the second half got underway the Mountaineers quickly picked up where they left off from beyond the arc. A rare three pointer from Staten, his fifth of the season, gave West Virginia its first double-digit lead of the game, pushing them ahead 42-32.
Kansas State would quickly answer, however, with a brisk 4-0 run forcing Coach Bob Huggins to call a timeout in an effort to regain lost momentum. A layup from Foster exiting the break, however, did little to ease the bleeding, with West Virginia now leading 42-38.
Staten tried his best to keep the Mountaineers on top, converting a traditional three-point play, but the Wildcats continued to chip away at the deficit. Entering the first media timeout Kansas State found itself down by a mere three points.
The West Virginia advantage would hover around 3-5 points before a Remi Dibo three brought the crowd off its feet. The basket pushed the Mountaineer's lead back up to seven, helping to sustain the Wildcat's run.
But Kansas State would not concede momentum just yet. A defensive breakdown for the Mountaineers allowed Wildcat big man Thomas Gipson to tiptoe for the easy dunk.
From there, the Wildcats pushed forward with an 8-0 run to tie the contest at 53. Things looked fairly dire for the Mountaineers in this span before a Staten jumper helped West Virginia retake the lead, 55-53, at the second media timeout.
After giving up a 10-point advantage, Staten's jumper sparked West Virginia's first true run of the half. The Mountaineers went ahead with a 7-0 run, frustrating the Wildcat's bench and forcing Coach Bruce Weber to call a timeout with 8:59 to play.
Kansas State, however, would answer the Mountaineer's run with a streak of its own. An alley oop dunk for Foster over Staten put the exclamation point on the spurt, cutting the Wildcat's deficit to three points and forcing West Virginia to call a timeout, leading 62-59 with 7:07 remaining.
Both teams would continue to swap momentum shifts for a period of time, with West Virginia maintaining its advantage thanks to a couple of nifty drives from Dibo and Browne. A reverse layup on the baseline from Browne was quickly followed up by a versatile drive and score from Dibo, putting West Virginia up by seven with five minutes remaining.
But Kansas State would find its way back into the ballgame in short order. An 8-2 run for the Wildcats put them down by a single point, 68-67, with 3:01 remaining, forcing Coach Huggins to call a timeout.
Shortly after the break, a huge three pointer from Dibo ignited the Mountaineers and those in attendance at the Coliseum. This, followed shortly thereafter by a big turnover and key free throws from Henderson, shifted momentum towards the Mountaineer's side. The baskets pushed West Virginia ahead 73-68 with 1:16 remaining.
After struggling to close out games as of late, the Mountaineers would have no problem handling Kansas State in the final minute to secure a much-needed victory.
Final: West Virginia 81, Kansas State 71.
The Mountaineers were led in scoring by Juwan Staten, who tacked on a career-high 35 points in the victory.
West Virginia will return to action Wednesday as they face the Oklahoma Sooner in the Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 7pm.