It was ugly early, and neither team’s offense ever seemed to get into a groove in a 51-50 slugfest in Kansas City, as West Virginia beat K-State to advance to the Big 12 Tournament final.
It was a tale of two halves, as K-State’s defense locked down West Virginia, with some help from what appeared to be an invisible lid on the basket for the Mountaineers, to the tune of 16 first half points. The ‘Eers looked lost on offense, often throwing up bad shots with poor ball movement.
The Wildcats managed 25 in the first period, and in the second half pushed the lead to 11 and then a bit later 12 before West Virginia started their comeback.
Bob Huggins changed the defensive alignment for his team, abandoning the full-court press that West Virginia is known for for a 3/4-court press and a 1-3-1 zone that stifled the Wildcat offense and finally created the panic and turnovers that WVU lives on. In the end, that panic led Kamau Stokes to pick up his dribble with mere seconds left on the game clock, then forced him to take a bad shot as time expired that bounced off the rim.
Only two Wildcats broke double-digits in the score column, as Wesley Iwundu dropped in 13 and Stokes added 10. After his 21-point outburst yesterday, Barry Brown managed just 9 points; but Dean Wade returned and had 7 points and a team-high-tying 6 rebounds. Isaiah Maurice had a good first half off the bench subbing for a foul-plagued D.J. Johnson, and finished with four points, two blocks, and two rebounds. Johnson only had three points on the night, but grabbed six boards and blocked three shots in the effort.
The Wildcats will still be sweating until the Selection Sunday announcements, and really needed the win to lock-up a NCAA Tournament bid. But for now, it looks like the Cats will be playing in a post-season tournament, even if that means playing in the NIT.