K-State has been too little too late more times than it would like to admit this season.
The latest came Wednesday in Morgantown, West Virginia. The Wildcats overcame multiple double-digit deficits and even led with less than three minutes to play, but the No. 21 Mountaineers pulled ahead in the final minute to secure a 76-72 win.
K-State (12-13, 5-7) has now dropped five-straight games for the first time since February 2005, and is under .500 with only six games remaining in the regular season.
“I thought we had a better plan than the last time (we played West Virginia),” K-State head coach Bruce Weber told K-State Sports after the game. “You have to go through it to understand it, and I think they understood it. We cut down our turnovers, but we probably missed too many layups.”
K-State relied on senior forward Nino Williams on offense to rally from 11 points down in the second half. Williams led all scorers with 22 points, tying a career high from earlier this season. He was one of four K-State players to finish in double-digits.
In the first game against West Virginia (17-3, 5-3), K-State turned the ball over 25 times. Wednesday, that number fell to 17, though critical turnovers down the stretch plagued the Wildcats.
“The difference in the game was that little stretch where we lost our poise and we didn’t have timeouts,” Weber said in reference to the opening half. “We did a much better job defensively in the second half of protecting the paint.”
K-State mounted a four-minute, 12-0 run late in the second half to take a two-point lead with 2:25 remaining in the game. The Wildcats had trailed for more than 32 minutes up until that point.
“I told them, ‘Hey we got nothing to lose, just come and play.'” Weber said. “We cut the lead, and we just kept battling.”
Unfortunately for K-State, the miscues started to pile up. After retaking the lead, K-State turned the ball over four times, missed three free throws and a layup to end the game in disappointing fashion.
“We grabbed the lead, and we don’t get a stop; then Nino travels on the inbound,” Weber said. “Those little things all make a difference, so I’m proud of them but it’s still disappointing because we keep hanging with the top teams in the country and we don’t get any reward from it.”
In the first half, K-State allowed two big Mountaineer runs that allowed the home team to take a 12-point lead into the halftime break.
The first run was a 6-0 spurt that put the Mountaineers ahead by their first double-digit lead, 35-25. The second was an 8-0 run that extended that lead to 12 points and captured any momentum that was lacking in the first four minutes for the 21st-ranked team in the country.
West Virginia was hot from behind the arc in the first half. The Mountaineers finished the half shooting 57 percent from deep, while K-State finished 0-4 shooting 3-pointers to open the game. The Wildcats were a perfect 2-2 from deep in the second half, but it was not enough to snap a significant losing streak.
It won’t get any easier for K-State. The Wildcats return to Bramlage Coliseum Saturday to face the No. 17-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. Tipoff on Valentine’s Day is set for 7 p.m.