Gutsy K-State Effort Falls Short at 21/20 WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Kansas State could not maintain its lead late, as No. 21/20 West Virginia surged to a 76-72 win on Wednesday night before 8,762 fans at the WVU Coliseum.

Leading 69-67 after a 3-point play by senior Nino Williams with 2:25 to play, K-State (12-13, 5-7 Big 12) saw its advantage evaporate down the stretch as West Virginia (19-5, 7-4 Big 12) clinched the season sweep by scoring nine of the game’s final 12 points. K-State has now lost five in a row for the first time in a decade.

The loss marred a terrific offensive performance by the Wildcats, who connected on better than 50 percent in each half and finished a stellar 56.8 percent (25-of-44) from the field with four players in double figures. It marked the first time in nine games this season that the team lost when shooting 50 percent or better from the field.

Williams tied his career-high with 22 points on 7-of-11 field goals, while junior Justin Edwards and sophomore Nigel Johnson each added 14 points. Johnson, who earned just third career start, was solid all-around with a team-high 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals in a career-best 33 minutes.

Reserve Brandon Watkins led four Mountaineers in double figures with a near double-double of 14 points and a game-high 9 rebounds, while senior Juwan Staten added 11 points and a game-high 6 assists.

The loss dropped K-State below the .500 mark for the first time in more than 11 seasons since also falling to 12-13 after a home loss to Missouri on Jan. 28, 2004. The team’s 5-game losing streak is the longest of head coach Bruce Weber’s tenure and the longest for K-State since dropping 5 in a row in Big 12 play from Feb. 5-19, 2005.

The Wildcats were again without sophomore Marcus Foster and freshman Malek Harris, who remained suspended for the third straight game.

The Basics
Final Score: 21/20 West Virginia 76, Kansas State 72
Records: Kansas State (12-13, 5-7 Big 12); 21/20 West Virginia (19-5, 7-4 Big 12)
Attendance: 8,762 (paid)
Next Game: Saturday, Feb. 14 \\ vs. 17/17 Oklahoma (17-7, 8-4 Big 12) \\ 7 p.m. CT \\ ESPN2

The Short Story
•    Despite a stellar offensive performance, K-State saw its season-long losing streak climb to five games – the school’s longest drought since 2005 – in a season sweep to West Virginia.
•    The Wildcats connected on better than 50 percent in each half for the first time in Big 12 play and the first time since the UMKC game (11/17/2014) and finished 25-of-44 (56.8 percent) from the field.
•    K-State lost for just the fifth time under Bruce Weber and the first time this season (8-1) when connecting on 50 percent or better from the field.
•    West Virginia’s 76 points were the third-most allowed this season, as the Mountaineers set opponent-highs for first half points (46) and field goal percentage (62.1).
•    West Virginia used its deep reserves to post a 47-19 edge in bench points. It marked the second-most bench points by an opponent since 2000-01 and most since Kansas tallied 73 on Feb. 27, 2002.
•    Williams tallied his fifth career 20-point game, including his fourth this season, with his game-high 22 points on 7-of-11 field goals and an 8-of-10 effort from the free throw line.
•    Along with Edwards and Johnson’s 14-point efforts, senior Thomas Gipson (10) gave the Wildcats’ four players in double figures for the 5th time this season, including the 2nd time in Big 12 play.
 
How It Happened  |  First Half
•    West Virginia opened the game 7-of-7 from the field, taking an 18-14 lead after a 3-pointer by Gary Browne with 14:50 to play in the first half.
•    The Mountaineers did not miss a shot of any kind until Browne missed a free throw at 13:29 mark.
•    Despite the hot shooting by West Virginia, K-State stayed within one possession until a 9-2 run made it 27-19 with 9:52 to play before halftime.
•    The Wildcats battled back to cut it to 29-25 on a pair of free throws by Williams with 6:05.
•    The lead hovered around four points until the Mountaineers went on an 11-2 run to take a 46-33 lead with just 24 seconds before halftime.
•    A pair of free throws by Johnson closed K-State to within 46-35 at the break.
•    Both teams connected on better than 50 percent from the field in the first half, as West Virginia hit on 62.1 percent (18-of-29) and K-State shot 54.5 percent (12-of-22).
•    West Virginia posted first-half opponent highs for points (46) and field goal percentage (54.5).
•    Williams led all scorers with 12 points on 4-of-6 field goals and 4-of-5 from free throw line.
•    K-State connected on 78.6 percent (11-of-14) from the free throw line.
•    Ten different players scored for West Virginia led by Staten and Watkins’ 8 points each.
•    26 of the Mountaineers’ 46 points came from the bench, while 28 came in the paint.

How It Happened  |  Second Half
•    West Virginia maintained a healthy lead early in the second half, holding an 11-point advantage on two occasions, including 61-50 with 11:16 to play after a Watkins’ lay-up.
•    Trailing 67-57 at the 5:27 mark after a 3-pointer by Jaysean Paige, K-State used a 12-0 run to take its first lead since it was 8-7 on a 3-point play by Williams with 2:25 left.
•    Johnson scored 6 straight points during the 12-0 run, all in a 12-second span.
•    Down 69-67 with 2:25 to play, West Virginia tied the game on a pair of Nathan Adrian free throws then took the lead for good at 71-69 on a lay-up by Devin Williams with 1:51 remaining.
•    The Mountaineers salted the game away at the free throw line, as Jevon Carter and Gary Browne each knocked down a pair in the last 20 seconds.
•    K-State connected on 59.1 percent (13-of-22) in the second half, while holding West Virginia to just 28 percent (7-of-25). Neither team was particularly effective from the free throw line, as the Mountaineers missed 11 from the line to go with the Wildcats’ 10 misses.
•    Edwards scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half to go with 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

Beyond the Boxscore
•    With the win, West Virginia sweeps the season series for the first time in the Big 12 era.
•    The series is now tied at 4-all, including 3-3 in the Big 12 era.
•    The two teams combined for 84 turnovers and personal fouls after totaling 99 in the first meeting.
•    K-State tallied 20 points off of turnovers for the fourth time this season and the first time since the Purdue game (11/24/14).
•    Williams led the Wildcats in scoring for the team-leading 9th time, including 5th in Big 12 play.
•    Williams has now scored in double figures in 13 games, including 26 in his career.
•    Gipson has double-digit points in 13 games and 57 in his career.
•    Edwards scored in double figures for the 6th time this season.
•    Johnson posted double figure points for the 4th time this season, including back-to-back games.
•    K-State used its ninth different starting lineup this season with sophomore Jevon Thomas, sophomore Nigel Johnson, sophomore Wesley Iwundu, senior Nino Williams and senior Thomas Gipson.

Quotable
•    “There’s not much to say, I’m proud of our kids. They battled. We talked about the fact that they beat us at home, but we just needed each guy to make a one percent improvement. We weren’t much different from the free throw line than last time. We were 20 of 35 in the first game and 20 of 33 tonight. On defense we didn’t break down mentally, we were definitely better prepared and our kids understood how they played. Our kids attacked their press pretty well. The difference in the game was a few breakdowns in defense down the stretch. They’re (WVU) a very good team and they keep coming at you and it wears on you. I thought we guarded better in the second half and we had more guys produce for us in the second half. Nigel (Johnson) was pretty good and Nino (Williams) is back at about 90 percent now, he did some good things,” said head coach Bruce Weber.  

Up Next
•    K-State returns to Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday, Feb. 14, as the Wildcats play host to No. 17/17 Oklahoma (17-7, 8-4 Big 12) at 7 p.m. CT, on ESPN2. Tickets are available by calling the K-State Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 221-CATS or online at www.kstatesports.com/tickets.