K-State outlasts No. 24 West Virginia in Big 12 Opener

KSU defeated ACU 81-64 on Dec. 6. at Bramlage Colosseum. (Archive photo by Reece Bachta | Collegian Media Group)

K-State opened the conference play gauntlet against No. 24 West Virginia with a gritty come-from-behind 82-76 overtime victory. Head coach Jerome Tang’s first season continues to be a success as the Wildcats move to 12-1 (1-0). 

The Mountaineers climbed ahead with a 17-3 lead eight minutes into the game. K-State struggled on both sides of the ball, shooting 1-11 compared to West Virginia’s 7-17.

Outside of the early disparity in field goals, rebounding was a blaring issue in the first half. West Virginia collected 31 rebounds, dwindling K-State’s total of 12. Eleven of West Virginia’s rebounds came off of the offensive glass, contributing to nine second chance points for the Mountaineers.

Foul trouble also plagued the first half. In a game the Wildcats lacked starting center David N’Guessan, starting forwards Keyontae Johnson and Nae’Qwan Tomlin drew multiple whistles. Johnson had two first half fouls and Tomlin had three.

Despite the Wildcats’ woes, West Virginia only led 32-21 at half.

K-State came out of the break much stronger. An 11-5 run to open the second half closed the Mountaineer lead to just five points. Yet another near glass-shattering slam by Tomlin signified a momentum swing. 

The first lead of the night for the Wildcats came at the 12-minute mark with a Johnson layup. 

Another run, this time 15-2, gave the Wildcats their largest lead of eight points. After missing their first nine 3-pointers in the contest, K-State made three straight. In addition, K-State forced nine second half turnovers with nine minutes still to play. 

Over those final nine minutes, foul trouble came back into play. Forward Ismael Massoud fouled out. Tomlin, Johnson and center Abayomi Iyiola all had four fouls with four minutes still to play. 

With one minute remaining, West Virginia was able to take the lead back at 63-62. K-State had been scoreless for two minutes and it was anyone’s game. K-State led by three with 13 seconds on the clock, but West Virginia’s Kedrian Johnson hit a three to send the game to overtime. 

[related title=”Wildcats husk off Nebraska in former Big 12 matchup” url=”https://www.kstatecollegian.com/2022/12/18/wildcats-husk-off-nebraska-in-former-big-12-matchup/”

The third period was less dramatic and largely dominated by K-State, outscoring West Virginia 16-10.

Iyiola, despite fouling out in overtime, had a strong performance filling in for N’Guessan. He notched a season-high 14 points and eight rebounds. 

Senior guard Markquis Nowell again proved he’s one of the nation’s top shot creators. Nowell had his fifth double-double on the season with 23 points and 10 assists. 

K-State and West Virginia were picked last in the Big 12 preseason polls. Now, both teams have received votes to be amongst the nation’s top 25, exemplifying how strong the Big 12 conference is. Each game will be a challenge as the Wildcats push for an NCAA tournament bid.

Fittingly, up next for K-State is a road game against No. 6 Texas at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 3.