Until halftime against No. 10 West Virginia it appeared Kansas State might have a chance of continuing the good vibes of the last week. But turnovers and the inability to make open shots derailed their chances of securing back-to-back upsets against top-10 teams, as the Wildcats (7-19, 3-14 Big 12) fell to the Mountaineers (17-6, 10-4) by a 65-43 final score.
K-State did what it needed to do in the first half, treating West Virginia to the same sort of shirt-to-shirt defense that Mountaineers Coach Bob Huggins has made a staple of his program. Though the Cats were down by as many as 9 early, a three-point bucket by Rudi Williams and two from Mike McGuirl pulled them within one, at 19-18, with 5:12 to play in the first half. West Virginia gave K-State plenty of chances to take the lead over the next two-plus minutes, but the Wildcats missed four shots and committed three turnovers before the Mountaineers hit a shot to extend their lead. West Virginia closed the half on a 7-4 run to reach the break with a 26-22 advantage.
Out of the break, the Mountaineers scored the first 7 points to claim the game’s first double-digit lead at 33-22. A Davion Bradford layup at the 17:06 finally got K-State on the board, and the Cats did get back within 7 at one point, but empty possessions finally became too much to overcome. West Virginia maintained a double-digit lead for the last 11:40 of game time.
The Cats made it the kind of rock fight they needed early, holding the score down by making offense very difficult for West Virginia. But without the services of Nijel Pack, who missed the game with a reported eye infection, K-State could not get enough scoring to push the Mountaineers beyond halftime. The Wildcats shot a paltry 15-41 from the field (29.4%), including 3-19 from three-point range (15.4%). They also turned the ball over 18 times.
The Cats did generate open looks. As we have seen previously on too many occaisions, outside shots just don’t go down with any consistency. After McGuirl’s second made three with five minutes to play in the first half, K-State would not make another. Luke Kasubke missed all four of his attempts, each of which was a clean, open look. McGuirl was 2-8 from deep.
Bradford scored 11, and McGuirl finished with 10. Nobody else scored more than six points for K-State.
Sean McNeil was a rather inefficient 6-16 shooting but led the Mountaineers with 16 points.
K-State has a week to prepare for Saturday’s 4:00 contest with Iowa State. Let’s hope that is time enough for Pack’s eye issue to get resolved, as the Cats look to sweep the Cyclones.