The men’s basketball team entered the matchup in desperate need of a win to gain momentum in conference play, and it was going to be a tough test against No. 12 West Virginia. The Wildcats kept it together during the matchup and secured a dominating 84-68 upset win.
Redshirt junior guard Cartier Diarra tied his career-high with 25 points, playing a big part in the Wildcats’ first conference win of the season.
The Wildcats came out strong in the first half with 13 points by freshman guard DaJuan Gordon. Gordon tied his career-high in the opening half. Senior forward Xavier Sneed finished the half with 12 points. Both Gordon and Sneed were a combined 8-8 from the floor.
Gordon entered off the bench and provided a spark early for the Wildcats.
“Obviously, Dajuan [Gordon] really stepped up and gave us a nice spark, and we played off that,” head coach Bruce Weber said.
The Mountaineers struggled from the floor out of the gate, shooting 37 percent and went one-for-ten from three. Freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe led West Virginia with eight points.
The Wildcats finished the half with a 12-2 run, carrying momentum into the locker room with a 17 point lead.
K-State got into some foul trouble in the second half with four players with three fouls. West Virginia entered the bonus with over twelve minutes remaining in the second half.
The Mountaineers’ last resort was to trap with the full-court press, limiting the K-State barrage and mounting a 20-3 run during a sloppy stretch from the Wildcats — K-State turned over the ball seven times in four minutes. With 10 minutes left in the game, West Virginia shrunk the Wildcat lead to just eight points, 57-49.
The Wildcats were able to break it with fastbreak points.
“I felt like we got a good amount of transition points,” Diarra said. “West Virginia pressured us a lot, so we just adjusted and made the right reads.”
Finishing down the stretch has been a struggle for the Wildcats this season, but K-State was able to avoid a late push.
“We know they were going on the run, we knew they were going to go on a run, but what we did differently was handling their pressure and then slow it down, and then get into the offense and make easy plays,” junior guard David Sloan said.
Diarra had plenty of help with 16 points from Sneed, and a career-high of 15 points from Gordon off the bench. Sloan also got his career-high in points with nine points and a start as a Wildcat.
The Wildcats shot 59 percent from the floor, which was the highest since shooting 63 percent against Alabama State in December.
Turnovers were key for the Wildcats, who had 22 points off 13 turnovers, including ten steals in the first half. The Wildcats finished the game scoring 28 points off 18 turnovers,
“We got points off turnovers, 28,” Weber said. “I thought our defense was really good,” Weber said.
That doesn’t mean the game was without negatives for the Wildcats. For Diarra, there were the seven turnovers.
“I definitely can’t have that many, I never want to have more turnovers than I have assists,” Diarra said.
The Wildcats will make the short trip east to face Kansas in this season’s first installment of the Sunflower Showdown at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. The game will be on ESPN2.