The last time West Virginia was on the road, the Mountaineers were embarrassed by the Texas Longhorns. Their performance against the Longhorns didn’t look anything like the Mountaineers that we have seen so much improvement out of this season.
This time around, however, the Mountaineers were out to set the Big 12 conference straight. These are not the Mountaineers of the last few seasons.
WVU traveled to Manhattan to take on the Kansas State Wildcats and even though it wasn’t pretty, were able to pull out the 65-59 victory. This win gave the Mountaineers their 10th on the road, which leads the NCAA.
WVU was led in scoring by reserve guard Tarik Phillip with 12 points, only three days after not playing a single minute against TCU. Juwan Staten, who seemed to injure his wrist early in the 2nd half but played through it, had 11 points. Those were the only two Mountaineers in double figures.
Devin Williams chipped in 8 points and 9 rebounds, Jevon Carter and Gary Browne each had 9 points. The biggest concern in this game is that Jonathan Holton didn’t score and only played 3 minutes due to foul trouble, which is becoming an ongoing problem for the Mountaineers. The Mountaineers shooting woes continued to show with WVU only shooting 20-55 (36%) and 4-17 (24%) from 3.
The Wildcats were led in scoring by Marcus Foster who had 15 points and Wesley Iwundu with 12. The biggest story for the Wildcats was the loss of Nino Williams, who left the game in the 1st half with a knee injury, and did not return.
Williams was last week’s Big 12 player of the week after averaging 21 PPG and 8 RPG. The Wildcats shot the ball decently 18-49, (37%) however were haunted by their free throw shooting 20-35 (57%).
The start of the game was a little out of the ordinary as Holton picked up a technical foul only 14 seconds into the game for taunting a Kansas State player. Kansas State used that to ignite a 7-1 run to start the game, but WVU was able to answer and tie the game at 7.
The first half saw both teams feeling each other out with neither team able to establish any consistent momentum. Turnovers and fouls haunted both teams in the first half with WVU taking a 26-24 lead into the locker room.
The Mountaineers were able to get some separation in the second half, but Kansas State always seemed to find a way to get back into the game. Jaysean Paige (7 points) had a nice little run in the 2nd half, scoring 5 straight points before being forced to the bench after picking up his 4th foul.
WVU was able to establish a consistent lead midway through the 2nd half and hung on for the 6 point win. WVU’s pressure defense was as relentless as it has been forcing the Wildcats into 25 turnovers.
However, the Mountaineers were very sloppy with their half-court offense turning the basketball over 20 times. The other troublesome stat for the Mountaineers was that Kansas State was ranked 301 in rebounding in the NCAA coming into tonight but were able to out rebound the Mountaineers by 38-37.
The officiating was as questionable as ever with 54 fouls including two technicals being called (Bruce Weber and Holton). The obvious improvement for the Mountaineers in this game was their effectiveness in the half-court defense against the Wildcats.
Bob Huggins has said countless times how hard the past two years have been at WVU, and now he has the Mountaineers on the national stage again handing Bruce Weber his 6th loss at home as coach at Kansas State and only his 3rd Big 12 home loss.
The Mountaineers now move into 3rd place in the Big 12 conference with their 5-2 record, while Kansas State falls to 5-3. WVU also became the first team in the Big 12 to 17 wins, which equals the total number of wins last season.
Written by Travis Stone, BGS Writer
Photo Courtesy of USA Today