MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A strong start to the second half helped No. 10/13 West Virginia break open a tight contest with Kansas State, as the Mountaineers earned a 65-43 victory in front of a limited capacity crowd of 2,800 fans at the WVU Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
West Virginia opened the second half with a 7-0 run, keyed by a jumper from junior Sean McNeil, expanding a narrow 26-22 halftime lead into double digits and forcing a timeout from K-State head coach Bruce Weber with 17:42 to play. McNeil finished with a game-high 16 points, including 4 3-pointers.
Down its starting point guard Nijel Pack, who missed the game due to an eye infection, the Wildcats (7-19, 3-14 Big 12) could never get anything going offensively, as the Mountaineers finally broke it wide open with a 17-0 run midway through the second half to build as much as a 25-point lead.
With the win, West Virginia (17-6, 10-4 Big 12) swept the season series for the first time since 2016.
The improving K-State defense held the Big 12’s second-leading offense (77.6 ppg.) to 65 points on 41.5 percent (22-of-53) shooting, including 30 percent (6-of-20) from 3-point range. However, the defensive effort could not overcome the offensive struggles, as the Wildcats managed season-lows in several categories, including field goals made (15), field goal percentage (29.4) and 3-point field goals made (3).
The 43 points were the second-fewest scored this season, while it was the Wildcats’ lowest field goal percentage since connecting on 28.9 percent against Texas Tech on February 10, 2018.
Freshman Davion Bradford was one of two players to score in double figures with 11 points on 4-of-8 field goals and 3-of-5 free throws to go with 6 rebounds in 26 minutes, while senior Mike McGuirl added 10 points 3-of-11 shooting with a pair of 3-pointers and a team-high 4 assists in 35 minutes.
After being held to 26 points on 33.3 percent (9-of-27) shooting in the first half, WVU found its offensive rhythm after halftime, scoring 39 points on 50 percent (13-of-25) shooting, including 66.7 percent (10-of-15) inside the arc. The Mountaineers also took advantage of 18 Wildcat turnovers, converting those into 23 points.
McNeil was joined in double figures by junior Derek Culver, who scored 11 points on 4-of-8 field goals to go with 6 rebounds. Three other Mountaineers (redshirt freshman Jalen Bridges, junior Emmitt Matthews, Jr. and senior Taz Sherman) chipped in 8 points each, while Bridges had 3 of the team’s 8 blocked shots.
K-State has had 9 of 14 players miss at least one game this season due to COVID-19 protocols or injury.
West Virginia broke open a one-point game with 2:33 to play before halftime, as junior Sean McNeil was responsible for 5 of the Mountaineers’ last 7 points, including a jumper and 3-pointer in a 34-second span.
WVU continued its strong play to start the second half, scoring 7 in a row, to build a double-digit lead (33-22) and force a K-State timeout with 17:42 remaining.
Weber called another timeout with 11:10 to play after a jumper by sophomore Antonio Gordon closed the deficit to 42-34 to give his short-handed team a rest, but the break only seemed to benefit WVU, as the squad erupted for 17 straight points to build a 59-34 advantage with 5:13 to play.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME
Freshman Davion Bradford led the Wildcats with 11 points on 4-of-8 field goals and 3-of-5 free throws to go with 6 rebounds in 26 minutes. He has now scored in double figures in 9 games, including 8 times in Big 12 play.
Senior Mike McGuirl added 10 points on 3-of-11 field goals, including a pair of 3-pointers, to go with a team-high 4 assists, 3 rebounds and a steal in 35 minutes. He has a team-leading 18 double-digit scoring games.
STAT OF THE GAME
29.4 – West Virginia held K-State to a season-low 29.4 percent shooting (15-of-51) from the field, including 15.8 percent (3-of-19) from 3-point range. It was the lowest field goal percentage since shooting 28.9 percent against Texas Tech on February 10, 2018.
IN THEIR WORDS
K-State Head Coach Bruce Weber
On the game…
“We were hoping Nijel would be able to play. This is something that’s gone on for six or seven days. It just didn’t get any better. It probably got a bit worse, and we didn’t want to take a chance. His long term health is the most important thing. Any student-athlete, that’s the most important thing. We would never put a young man in jeopardy. We didn’t know until the last minute. We told the guys right when we got here that he wouldn’t play. Now, it gives someone else an opportunity. We’ve been here before. You can’t get outside of yourself. You can’t do what you can’t do. You’ve gotta do what you do and do it well. I thought we played hard. We guarded the heck out of them in the first half. We really should’ve been winning the game. We missed three front ends of bonuses. We had 10 offensive rebounds and just four points off of it. That was our opportunity to win it. They battled. It’s just hard. You get foul trouble, fatigue. It takes a toll. We had a couple of guys ask out, and I couldn’t get them out. I tried to use a couple of timeouts to help us. They’re good, but they’ve averaged 90 over the last five games, I believe. We held them in the 60s, and if we’re a little better offensively, probably hold them in the 50s. They got a little free flowing down the stretch, and we lost our poise a little bit. Every day is a new challenge. Our guys, to their credit, haven’t quit. We didn’t mind them trapping the ball screens. We expected it. We thought it would give us a chance. Now you gotta make the right passes. You’ve gotta make some open 3’s. We made a few in the first half, but I don’t think we made any in the second half. That’s probably the big difference in the game.”
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE
- K-State is now 7-19 on the season, including 3-14 in Big 12 play… The Wildcats finish the season with a 2-7 mark on the road, all in league play… The 19 losses tie for the third-most in school history.
- K-State played its 12th Top 25 opponent of the season, which ties for the second-most by a team in school history and the most since the 2015-16 team played a school-record 14.
- K-State is now 120-273 all-time against Top 25 opponents, including an 2-10 mark vs. the AP’s No. 10 ranked team… The team is 1-11 vs. Top 25 in 2020-21, including 1-4 vs. Top 10.
- K-State is now 8-13 all-time against West Virginia, including a 3-7 mark on the road… The Mountaineers sweep the season series for the first time since 2016… WVU leads the series, 12-7, in the Big 12 era.
- The Wildcats’ starting lineup consisted of senior Mike McGuirl, sophomore DaJuan Gordon, freshman Selton Miguel, sophomore Antonio Gordon and freshman Davion Bradford… This is the first time using this lineup and the ninth lineup employed this season… At least true freshmen have started in 22 of 26 games… McGuirl has now started all 26 games this season and has the longest current active start streak at 31 games… He is the only player to start all 26 games.
- Freshman Nijel Pack missed today’s game due to an eye infection… He has now missed 5 games this season and the Wildcats are winless in those 5 games.
- Sophomore Carlton Linguard, Jr., missed his second straight game due to injury… He has now missed 10 games this season.
- K-State scored its 43 points on a season-low 29.4 percent (15-of-51) shooting, including 15.8 percent (3-of-19) from 3-point range, while connecting on 66.7 percent (10-of-15) from the free throw line.
- K-State posted season-lows for field goals made (15), field goal percentage and 3-point field goals made (3)… It was the fewest field goals made since hitting 14 vs. Mississippi State (12/14/2019).
- West Virginia scored its 65 points on 41.5 percent (22-of-53) shooting, including 30 percent (6-of-20) from 3-point range, while knocking down 88.2 percent (15-of-17) from the free throw line… The Mountaineers scored 39 points in the second half on 50 percent shooting (13-of-26).
- West Virginia led 38 minutes and 54 seconds… It marked the 11th time that K-State never held a lead.
- West Virginia scored 23 points off 18 K-State turnovers… It marked the eighth time that the Wildcats have allowed 20 or more points off turnovers, including the seventh time in Big 12 play.
- K-State held a 36-35 advantage on the boards, including 14 offensive rebounds… The Wildcats have held the rebounding advantage in 14 games, including 6 times in the last 7 games.
- West Virginia led 26-22 at the half as the Mountaineers scored 7 of the last 11 points.
- K-State is now 0-18 this season when trailing at the half.
- Freshman Davion Bradford scored 11 points on 4-of-8 field goals and 3-of-5 free throws to go with 6 rebounds in 26 minutes… It marked his third time leading the team in scoring… He has now scored in double figures in 9 games this season, including 8 times in Big 12 play.
- Senior Mike McGuirl scored 10 points on 3-of-11 field goals, including 2-of-8 from 3-point range, to go with a team-high 4 assists, 3 rebounds and a steal in 35 minutes… He has now scored in double figures in 28 career games, including a team-leading 18 this season.
- Sophomore Antonio Gordon led the team with 7 rebounds to go with 6 points and 3 assists in 28 minutes… It marked the 17th time leading the team in rebounding, including the 10th this season.
- Junior Rudi Williams returned to the court after missing the last 2 games, finishing with 5 points off the bench with 3 rebounds, an assist and a steal in 14 minutes.
K-State concludes the regular season with a rescheduled home game with Iowa State (2-18, 0-15 Big 12) on Saturday, March 6 at 4 p.m., CT on Big 12 Now. The game was scheduled to be played on January 13 but was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. The Wildcats won the first meeting, 74-65, in the Big 12 opener on Dec. 15, 2020 in Ames, Iowa.