No. 21 West Virginia snapped a two game losing skid when its bench helped the Mountaineers beat Kansas State 76-72 in a nail-biter on Wednesday.
The Mountaineers’ bench outscored the Wildcats’ 47-19.
Reserve Brandon Watkins scored a career-high 14 points. Juwan Staten had 11 points. Jaysean Paige and Jevon Carter came off the bench to add 10 apiece for the Mountaineers.
Watkin’s sophomore season has been a struggle. The 6-foot-9 forward missed several games with an illness, and after his return Watkins averaged only seven minutes of playing time.
Watkins grabbed nine rebounds before exiting the game with a possible injury in the second half.
“I think he got tired of sitting on the bench and did something about it,” head coach Bob Huggins said.
West Virginia blew a double digit lead in the second half after shooting just 28 percent.
Kansas State started the half on a 5-0 run spurred by turnovers.
The Wildcats went on another run and Nigel Johnson got a big steal off an inbounds pass and scored to cut West Virginia’s lead to one. Nino Williams capped the 12-0 run when he gave Kansas State its first lead since early in the game with 2:25 left.
Nathan Adrian made two free throws and Devin Williams’ basket put West Virginia up 71-69 with 1:51 remaining.
Carter made two free throws after Johnson was charged with an intentional foul with 20 seconds left. Gary Browne added two more to seal the win for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers offense came out red-hot in the first half, making five-of-five from the field. Adrian and Daxter Miles Jr. dropped back-to-back three-pointers to give West Virginia a 13-10 lead.
With five minutes to play in the first half, Watkins grabbed a rebound and scored off a Williams miss. He was fouled on the play but missed the free throw. Watkins grabbed his own rebound and slammed home a dunk to complete a four point play.
Paige put West Virginia up 37-21 with 2:30 left in the half when he dunked an alley-oop from Staten. This sparked an 8-0 run for the Mountaineers, who led 46-35 at the half.
West Virginia shot 62 percent from the field and 57 percent from beyond-the-arc in the first half.
Williams led Kansas State with 22 points. Johnson and Justin Edwards tallied 14 apiece and Thomas Gipson added 10.
West Virginia had 10 of 11 players that had scored from the field in the first half.
The Mountaineers moved into a tie for third place in the Big 12 standings. West Virginia will travel to Ames, Iowa on Saturday in a rematch against No. 14 Iowa State.