Kansas State did not have a good resume building win coming into Saturday. Their best win was perhaps over Oklahoma, the team currently seventh in the Big 12 standings. But another opportunity arose Saturday evening for the Wildcats to earn that first resume building win with No. 7 West Virginia coming to Manhattan and the Wildcats didn’t squander their big opportunity taking down the Mountaineers 79-75.
It was a very ugly game of basketball. There were 49 fouls and 39 turnovers between the two teams. K-State was able to deal with it best with the help of a few big runs, including one right out of the gate.
The Wildcats, full of energy, quickly pulled ahead 9-2 early on, feeding off the raucous, sold-out crowd in Bramlage Coliseum. K-State forced West Virginia to miss their first six shots and turn the ball over four times, which didn’t allow the Mountaineers to set up their feisty press defense.
But things turned quickly. West Virginia started making baskets, which allowed them to set up their full-court pressure, and K-State was unable to cope.
Thanks to a multitude of Kansas State mistakes, including back-to-back five second violations, West Virginia was able to pull away from the Wildcats. The Mountaineers were up as much by as 12 in the first half.
“It takes a toll on you, mental and physical,” head coach Bruce Weber said on West Virginia’s press defense.
The lead wouldn’t last long, however. K-State made a furious 10-0 run to close the gap to two before halftime. Sophomore guard Kamau Stokes’ layup at the buzzer pulled the Wildcats within 36-38.
It was questionable if Stokes would even be able to play after injuring his ankle Wednesday night against Oklahoma State. But Stokes showed no signs of the injury as he led the Cats with 15 points on the night.
“I know it was going to be a big factor,” sophomore guard Barry Brown said. “(Stokes) is a huge part of what we do and the team that we are. Just to have him on the court with us was big.”
The Wildcats came out with the same energy they ended the half with and were able to pull ahead again. With the help of their crowd, K-State slowly pulled away from the Mountaineers, eventually taking a 65-55 lead with just 7:43 remaining.
But the momentum shifted again after senior forward Wesley Iwundu was called for a questionable flagrant foul. The Mountaineers would go on a quick 7-0 run to take the lead 66-65. But the Wildcats were able to force some turnovers and eventually pulled ahead and held on for the win. Head coach Bruce Weber said the Cats did well to deal with adversity late in the game.
“Give them credit, (West Virginia) made the run,” Weber said. “(But) I think this is where we’ve matured as a team, we feel more confident that we can deal with adversity and go make plays.”
K-State improved to 15-4 and 4-3 in Big 12 play with the win. They will head to Ames, Iowa on Tuesday night to take on Iowa State before heading to Knoxville, Tennessee to take on the Volunteers next Saturday.