MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – No. 12/11 West Virginia finally broke free from a scrappy Kansas State team with a 19-6 run early in the second half, as the Mountaineers extended their home court winning streak to 11 games with a 66-57 win on Saturday afternoon before a sold-out crowd of 14,000 fans at the WVU Coliseum.
With the win, West Virginia (17-4, 5-3 Big 12) evened the season series at 1-all and snapped a 3-game winning streak by K-State (9-12, 2-6 Big 12) in the series.
The Wildcats had a number of opportunities in the opening moments of the second half down just 1 but freshman DaJuan Gordon and junior Mike McGuirl combined to miss 4 consecutive free throws before the Mountaineers started the pivotal 19-6 run with a 3-pointer by senior Chase Harler.
During the 19-6 run, WVU made several critical plays, including a 3-pointer by junior Taz Sherman at the shot clock buzzer after a near steal by Gordon with 13:44 to play, and a Harler steal and dunk by sophomore Derek Culver that keyed a run of 9 consecutive points that pushed the lead from 40-35 to 49-35 with 9 minutes remaining.
The Wildcats continued to fight despite the double-digit deficit, closing to within 8 points on four separate occasions in the last 6 minutes, but each time the Mountaineers always seemed to have an answer, including a 5-0 run after a 3-pointer by junior Cartier Diarra cut it to 61-53 with 1:27 to play.
As expected with the teams’ defensive pedigree, neither team shot well from the field, as West Virginia connected on 42 percent (21-of-50), including 31.6 percent (6-of-19) from 3-point range, while K-State hit on 36.7 percent (18-of-49), including 17.6 percent (3-of-17) from long range. The 3 3-pointers were a season-low for the Wildcats.
Culver was only West Virginia player in double figures, but it was a big offensive effort, as he was responsible for nearly a third of the team’s points with a game-high 19 points on 8-of-15 field goals to go with a game-best 14 rebounds. Two others – Harler and freshman Oscar Tshiebwe – each added 8 points.
Junior David Sloan continued his solid play since joining the starting lineup 5 games ago, as he led the Wildcats with 13 points on 5-of-11 field goals and 3-of-3 free throws to go with team-highs in both assists (3) and steals (2) in 29 minutes. Senior Xavier Sneed added 11 points, most of which came from the free throw line (7-of-10).
In starting the last 5 games, Sloan is averaging 10.2 points and 3.6 assists in 26.8 minutes per game.
K-State has now lost 8 games (of 12 total losses) by single digits or by 40 total points.
HOW IT HAPPENED
K-State jumped out to the early lead on the strength of a 7-0 run, which was highlighted by 3-point plays by freshman DaJuan Gordon and junior David Sloan, to take a 9-5 lead before a West Virginia jumper made it 9-7 at the first media timeout at the 15:36 mark. However, West Virginia regained the lead at 10-9 on a 3-point play by sophomore Derek Culver that capped a 5-0 run by the Mountaineers.
The two teams traded the lead 4 times over the next few possessions, including a 14-11 lead by K-State on a 3-pointer by freshman Montavious Murphy at the 12:02 mark, before WVU used another 5-0 run to take a 20-16 advantage into the third media timeout with 7:30 before halftime.
The run was extended to 10-0 after 2 free throws by freshman Miles McBride and a 3-pointer by junior Brandon Knapper that forced head coach Bruce Weber to call his first timeout with the Mountaineers leading 25-16 at the 5:23 mark. A jumper by Mike McGuirl 30 seconds later ended the drought that lasted more than 5 minutes.
The McGuirl bucket seemed to kick start the Wildcat offense, as the jumper started a 9-2 run that closed the deficit to 27-25 on a pair of free throws by senior Xavier Sneed with 1:50 before halftime. Down 29-27 with the Wildcats had an opportunity to tie the game, but Sloan’s layup rattled off the rim with 9 seconds, and sophomore Emmitt Matthews, Jr., hit 1 of 2 free throws to give the Mountaineers a 30-27 edge at the break.
Neither team shot particularly well in the opening half, as WVU connected on 41.7 percent (10-of-24) from the field, including 25 percent (2-of-8) from 3-point range, while K-State hit on 38.5 percent (10-of-26), but just 11.1 percent (1-of-9) from long range. Both teams shot 66.7 percent from the free throw line.
Culver led all scorers with 9 points for the Mountaineers on 4-of-9 field goals to go with 7 rebounds, while Sloan paced the Wildcats with 7 points on 3-of-8 field goals and Gordon had a team-high 6 rebounds.
K-State had multiple opportunities to take the lead in the opening moments of the second half, as both Gordon and McGuirl missed 2 free throws each with the Wildcats within 30-29 before a 3-pointer by senior Chase Harler and a jumper by Culver extended the lead to 35-29 at the 15:56 mark.
Down 37-33 after 2 free throws by Gordon, K-State looked like it had the opportunity to close the gap further on a steal, but Harler scrapped and got the ball back to junior Taz Sherman, who nailed a 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer to push the lead back out to 40-33 with 13:44 to play.
After a jumper by senior Makol Mawien cut it to 40-35 on the next possession, Weber called his third timeout after a runout and dunk by Culver made it 42-35 with just over 12 to play.
Unfortunately for K-State, the timeout didn’t disrupt the run, as WVU added 5 more points in a row to extend the lead into double figures for the first time all afternoon at 47-35 on a 3-point play by freshman Oscar Tshiebwe with 9:32 to play. The Mountaineers led 49-35 after a pair of free throws by sophomore Sean McNeil after a technical was called on Sneed with exact 9 remaining.
K-State started to chip away at the deficit, closing to 51-43 on 4 free throws from junior Levi Stockard III and Sneed with 5:58 to play, but WVU pushed it back out on a 3-pointer by McBride just 26 seconds later.
A jumper by Gordon and a 3-pointer by Diarra once again got the Wildcats to within single digits at 56-48 heading into the final media timeout with 2:46 remaining. However, just like the other challenges to the lead, the Mountaineers responded, as Harler hit a couple of big shots, the first, a long 2-pointer that extended the lead back 10 points at 58-48, then a 3-pointer moments later that made it 61-50 with 1:41 to play.
WVU wrapped things up with a mini 5-0 run after a Diarra 3-pointer that made it 66-53 with 41 seconds left, while Sloan scored the game’s final points with a pair of free throws and a jumper for the 66-57 final score.
The Mountaineers connected on 42.3 percent (11-of-26) of their field goals in the second half, including 36.4 percent (4-of-11) from 3-point range, while the Wildcats managed to hit on just 34.8 percent (8-of-23), including 25 percent (2-of-8) from long range, after halftime.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Junior David Sloan continued to impress as the Wildcats’ starting point guard, scoring a season-high 13 points on 5-of-11 field goals and a 3-of-3 effort from the free throw line to go with 3 assists (to 1 turnover) and 2 steals.
STAT OF THE GAME
3 – K-State connected on a season-low three 3-point field goals against West Virginia on 17 attempts.