MANHATTAN, Kan. – Junior guard Cartier Diarra tied a career-high with 25 points to lead an all-around impressive effort, as Kansas State ended a 4-game losing streak in Big 12 play with a resounding 84-68 win over No. 12/13 West Virginia on Saturday afternoon before 8,549 fans at Bramlage Coliseum.
The Wildcats (8-9, 1-4 Big 12) connected on 59.2 percent (29-of-49) of its field goals, including 60.9 percent (14-of-23) in the second half, to snap its longest skid to start league play since 2008-09. It was the highest point total and field goal percentage against a Big 12 opponent since scoring 85 points on 61.5 percent shooting (32-of-52) vs. Oklahoma State on Feb. 23, 2019.
Diarra was among three players in double figures for K-State, which has now won 3 in a row against West Virginia (14-3, 3-2 Big 12) for the first time since winning 3 straight to start the Big 12 era from 2013-14. In addition to Diarra’s career-tying 25 points, which included 16 in the second half, senior guard Xavier Sneed and freshman guard DaJuan Gordon added 16 and 15 points, respectively. It marked Diarra’s fourth 20-point game of the season.
K-State grabbed the early lead behind three consecutive 3-pointers, including back-to-back triples from DaJuan Gordon, who scored 13 of his season-high with 15 points in the first half. After the Mountaineers closed to within 26-21 with just under 5 to play before halftime, the Wildcats responded with a 16-4 run, which included 6 in a row, to take a 42-25 lead into halftime. The team scored 22 of their 42 points off 13 WVU turnovers.
K-State grew its lead to as many as 24 points (53-29) with 14:39 to play in the second half before West Virginia slowly started to chip away at the deficit, scoring 25 of the next 32 points to close the deficit to 60-54 with 7:48 to play. However, the Wildcats responded with a 9-0 spurt, keyed by a 6-of-6 combined effort from the free throw line by Diarra, Sneed and junior David Sloan to go with a Diarra 3-pointer, to push it back to 13 (69-54) with just over 5 minutes to play. This time, the team didn’t let off, building the lead back to 20 (81-61) with 1:51 left.
Diarra scored his game-tying 25 points on 8-of-14 field goals, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and a 5-of-7 effort from the free throw line to go with 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in a career-best 38 minutes. Sneed did most of his damage from the free throw line (7-of-10 effort) to go with 4-of-6 field goals, while Gordon had his 15 points on 6-of-7 field goals, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, to go with 4 steals in 29 minutes.
In addition to the solid days by Diarra, Sneed and Gordon, Sloan enjoyed an impressive day in his first career start at the point, scoring a season-high 9 points to go with a game-high 5 assists (to just 1 turnover) to go with a season-best 4 steals in a 36 minutes of action.
West Virginia finished at 44.6 percent (25-of-56) from the field, including 27.3 percent (6-of-22) from 3-point range, and made just 12 of 22 free throw attempts (54.5 percent). Three reserves led the Mountaineers, as freshman Miles McBride and senior Chase Harler each posted 11 points, while junior Gabe Osabuohien chipped in 10 points. The bench scored 41 of the team’s 68 points.
HOW IT HAPPENED
For the first time in 4 games, it was K-State who got off to the fast start with 4 consecutive points from senior Xavier Sneed to open the game. However, West Virginia responded with 7 straight of their own to take a 7-4 advantage into the first media timeout at the 15:52 mark.
The Mountaineers maintained the edge over the next few minutes before 3 consecutive 3-point field goals, including back-to-back triples from freshman DaJuan Gordon, gave the Wildcats a 17-11 lead at the 10:32 mark.
The teams went back and forth over the next few minutes before West Virginia closed the gap to 21-17, but Sneed gave K-State some breathing room with a 3-pointer and pair of free throws to extend the lead to 26-19 with 5:07 before halftime. After the Mountaineers closed to 26-21 on the next possession, a layup by freshman Montavious Murphy ignited a 10-2 run over the next 3 minutes that gave the Wildcats a 36-23 advantage at the 1:39 mark.
A third 3-pointer from Gordon in the half and a Diarra steal and dunk helped give K-State a 42-25 lead at the break.
The Wildcats connected on 57.7 percent (15-of-26) in the first half, including 62.5 percent (5-of-8) from 3-point range, and recorded 22 of their 42 points off 13 Mountaineers, which included 10 steals. West Virginia connected on 36.7 percent (11-of-30) from the field, including just 1-of-10 from long range.
Gordon led all scorers in the first half with 13 points on 5-of-5 field goals, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range, while Sneed added 12 points on 3-of-3 field goals and 5-of-7 free throws. Freshman Oscar Tshiebwe led the Mountaineers with 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting and a game-tying 6 rebounds.
K-State continued its hot play to start the second half, as three different Wildcats recorded baskets to extend the lead to 48-25 at the 16:41 mark. Back-to-back field goals from freshman Antonio Gordon, including a 3-pointer from the corner, gave the team a 24-point lead (53-29) with 14:39 to play.
It was at this point that the Mountaineers cranked up the pressure and started to get some points off turnovers. The team slowly chipped away at the deficit, using a 12-0 run to cut it to 57-46 on a 3-pointer by senior Chase Harler and forcing head coach Bruce Weber to call a timeout at the 10:17 mark.
West Virginia continued their comeback out of the timeout, scoring 8 of the next 11 points, capped by a 3-pointer by sophomore Brandon Knapper, to close to within 60-54 with 7:44 remaining.
With the momentum with the Mountaineers, Diarra started a 9-0 run with a pair of free throws that continued with two free throws by Sneed, a third 3-pointer by Diarra and two free throws from junior David Sloan that gave the Wildcats a 69-54 lead with 5:14 to play.
West Virginia could get no closer than 12 points the rest of the way, as another Diarra 3-pointer and a dunk by Sneed capped a 9-1 run to push the lead to 20 points (81-61) with 1:52 remaining.
K-State connected on 60.9 percent (14-of-23) from the field in the second half, including 40 percent (4-of-10) from 3-point range, and knocked down 10 of 13 attempts (76.9 percent) from the free throw line. West Virginia hit on 53.8 percent (14-of-26), including 41.7 percent (5-of-12) from long range, and 55.6 percent (10-of-18) from the free throw line.
Diarra scored 16 of his career-tying 25 points in the second half on 5-of-7 field goals, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, while Sloan had 7 of his season-high 9 points after halftime on 1-of-4 field goals and 5-of-6 free throws.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME
Junior Cartier Diarra led all scorers with a career-tying 25 points on 8-of-14 field goals, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and a 5-of-7 effort from the free throw line to go with 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in a career-best 38 minutes. It marked his fourth career 20-point game.
Freshman DaJuan Gordon scored a season-high 15 points off the bench on 6-of-7 field goals, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, to go with a season-best 4 steals in 28 minutes.
Junior David Sloan played a season-best 36 minutes in his first career start, scoring a season-high 9 points on 2-of-7 field goals and 5-of-6 free throws to go with a game-high 5 assists and a season-high 4 steals.
STAT OF THE GAME
9-0 – With West Virginia closing the deficit to 60-54 with 7:48 to play, K-State responded with a 9-0 run over the next 3 minutes to push the game back into double figures at 69-54 with 5:14 remaining.