After Wesley Iwundu was tagged with a flagrant 1 for coming down on top of Sagaba Konate after he himself was fouled by Konate, it looked like K-State was going to fall apart at the seams. A ten-point Wildcat lead evaporated in less than 150 seconds.
But the Cats gathered themselves, retook the lead, and hung on to claim a 79-75 win over the 7th-ranked Mountaineers tonight at Bramlage, leaving both teams at 15-4, 4-3 in conference play.
K-State had control early, using strong defense to keep West Virginia off the scoreboard. It was nearly six minutes before the Mountaineers scored from the floor, a three-pointer by Tarik Phillip which cut the Wildcat lead to 9-5.
But that bucket sparked a 15-1 West Virginia run, and it looked as though the game was going to get away from the Wildcats. A Lamont West three put West Virginia up by 12 with 2:52 to go in the first half.
K-State then took over the game. From that point until a Kamau Stokes layup just after the midway point of the second half, K-State outscored the Mountaineers 38-15, taking an 11-point lead. Two minutes later, the flagrant on Iwundu happened.
Then a funny thing happened. The Wildcats gathered themselves and went back to work. After West Virginia took the lead, the two teams jockeyed for about three minutes, but during that window something happened twice that hadn’t happened all season to the Mountaineers: first Elijah Macon and then Brandon Watkins fouled out.
A pair of layups by Iwundu and Stokes put K-State back up by five with two minutes to play, and although the Mountaineers were able to get the game back to within a possession three separate times, they were never able to get the tying basket.
K-State’s offense tonight? Balance is the word. Stokes and Barry Brown each finished with 15, D.J. Johnson had 14, and Iwundu and Dean Wade scored 13 each. The rest of the roster combined for nine points, and seven of those were courtesy of Carlbe Ervin. Both Johnson and Iwundu threatened double-doubles, finishing with eight and nine rebounds respectively.
Phillip led West Virginia with 20 points, with Jevon Carter adding 14 and Daxter Miles 11. Nathan Adrian was held to only two points through the first 32 minutes, but finished with nine.
The win, in addition to leaving the Wildcats in a tie for third place with the Mountaineers and Cyclones (and TCU, if they surprise Baylor tonight), is huge from a post-season perspective. Wins over top ten teams always are.
Having suffered a string of losses now, West Virginia is faced with a Tuesday night brawl with #2 Kansas (18-1, 7-0) at Morgantown. K-State will be on the road on the same night, in the house of horrors, Hilton Coliseum, to face Iowa State (12-6, 4-3).