Pulling the largest comeback in school history, the Kansas State men’s basketball team earned the first conference win over West Virginia with a wild 71-69 victory on Wednesday night at Bramlage Coliseum.
It was truly a tale of two halves for the Wildcats. Foul trouble and ice-cold shooting hurt the Wildcats in the first half, but a spark from senior guard Barry Brown helped the Wildcats to a dominant 50-point second half.
K-State was led to victory by Brown’s 29-point game, 20 of those points coming in the second half. Brown was helped by sophomore guard Mike McGuirl, senior guard Kamau Stokes, and junior guard Xavier Sneed who all finished the night in the double-digits.
K-State got into a hole early, shooting nine percent from the floor while West Virginia went on an 18-2 run over seven minutes to build a 20-3 lead before K-State called its first timeout of the game.
Following the timeout and two free throws by Brown to end a seven-minute-long scoring drought, the Wildcats scored their second basket of the night with just over eight minutes remaining in the half.
The Wildcats went on a 6-0 run late in the half to scratch back into the game and created some momentum going into the locker room. The Wildcats trailed the Mountaineers 36-21 at the half despite shooting 29 percent from the field.
Brown led the Wildcats with nine points with 18 minutes on the floor. Junior forward Lamont West led the Mountaineers with 11 points in the half. The Mountaineers dominated the boards in the first half with 21 rebounds, nearly doubling the number of K-State’s 11 rebounds.
It was clear that K-State needed a spark entering the second half. McGuirl shared what Brown said at the half
“Barry said to us if you do not think you can win then do not step on the court,” McGuirl said. “That was the mentality we needed, we should have come out in the half expecting like we should win.”
K-State opened the second half with three quick fouls within the first minute of the half. Makol Mawien received his fourth foul forcing him to sit. He did not return until there were nine minutes remaining.
Brown and the Wildcats caught fire going on a 15-0 run over four minutes to build a strong case for a comeback early in the half. This run kept the game within reach at 42-36 and forced the Mountaineers to call a timeout with 13:21 left to play.
K-State would go on a 22-4 run over five minutes to awaken the crowd and put pressure on West Virginia at 46-43.
West Virginia continued to make shots, but the Wildcats continued to keep pace bringing the game to the wire. K-State brought the game within two at 66-64 with three minutes left to play.
K-State took their first lead of the game at 68-66 after a four-point play by Sneed with 2:30 remaining. After the game, Brown talked about the momentum shifting four-point play.
“It was huge,” Brown said. “I remember after he hit it and got up I told him ‘That’s what you keep shooting.’ He stayed confident and was able to knock that shot down for us.”
The Mountaineers would tie the game on the next possession and took a 69-68 lead with a free-throw from West.
A turnover by West Virginia gave the Wildcats the ball with 46 seconds, trailing by one. A Brown layup, reminiscent of the Kentucky game in the NCAA tournament, gave the Wildcats a 70-69 lead with 27 seconds on the clock.
The Mountaineers had an opportunity to take the lead but missed a basket in the paint with three seconds remaining. Sneed would make a free throw to seal the 71-69 victory for the Wildcats. K-State led for 56 seconds total the entire game.
The Wildcats scored 50 points in the second half and had a 62 percent field goal percentage in the half. K-State forced 17 turnovers in the game resulting in 25 points off turnovers.
Brown carried the Wildcats with 29 points, and West led the Mountaineers with 21 points.
After the game, Bruce Weber talked about the dominating performances by Brown and McGuirl.
“To win crazy games like that, you have to have special performances and those two definitely did.”
The duo combined for 47 of the 71 K-State points.
The Wildcats will look to ride this momentum into Ames when they face No. 21 Iowa State on Saturday at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.