Kevin Jones scored 30 points, including a big 3 to tie the game at the end of regulation, to lead West Virginia to an 85-80 double-overtime victory over Kansas State at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. Thursday night.
The 30 points was a career high for Jones, who also hauled down 12 rebounds.
“We had chances to put it away and they had chances to put it away and neither one of us could make a free throw,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, making his return to Kansas after coaching Kansas State for one season in 2007. “They’re good; they’re physical and they guard. We couldn’t make a pass to start the game. We were lost. They had never seen that much ball pressure.”
But West Virginia (5-2) fought back from a seven-point deficit early in the second half after Will Spradling’s 3 gave the Wildcats a 41-34 lead with 17:24 remaining.
The Mountaineers eventually tied it at 54 with 5:10 to go on a Gary Browne driving layup. Jones gave West Virginia its first lead of the second half, 57-56, on a three-point play with 4:18 remaining.
Jones again put WVU ahead, 61-60, with 2:21 left, but K-State got a pair of free throws and then a layup from Thomas Gibson with 22 seconds remaining to make it a three-point game ahead of Jones’ tying 3 from the wing.
The Mountaineers had a chance to take control in the first overtime when Aaron Brown’s 3 from the wing gave them a 73-70 lead, and then leading by one, 73-72, Truck Bryant could have once again given WVU a three-point lead with 20 seconds to go. But Bryant hit one of two from the line, leaving the door open for Rodney McGruder to tie the game on a short jumper in the paint with five seconds left.
Bryant, who appeared unsure what to do with the ball when he took the inbound pass, hustled down the floor to try a contested 3 at the top of the key that bounced off the back of the rim, sending the game into a second overtime.
After four straight points by Brown, who came off the bench to score 10, Kansas State (5-1) was able to tie the game at 80 on Angel Rodriguez’s layup.
After that, Huggins called timeout intending to call an isolation play for Deniz Kilicli, but instead changed his mind and ran the play for Jones when Jones told him that a smaller man was guarding him. It was a wise choice because Jones was able to back his man into the paint and hit the go-ahead basket, a short hook shot, with 26 seconds left.
“KJ said ‘coach I’ve got a little guy on me’ so I said we’ll iso KJ,” said Huggins. “We we did and he got a big goal for us.”
On the other end, McGruder’s missed 3 from the wing was rebounded by Browne, who was fouled by Shane Southwell with 11 seconds remaining. Again, only one of two was made, but McGruder’s open look at a 3 from the right wing bounced high off the rim, Jones grabbed the rebound, was fouled, and converted both free throws with 3.3 seconds left to ice the game.
Huggins used the 1-3-1 zone for most of the two overtimes before eventually choosing to get out of it at the end.
“My staff kept saying stay in it so we don’t foul guys out but I said ‘how many layups do we want to give before we get out of it?’” said Huggins. “This is one of those games where you have to feel kind of what’s happening and what will work.”
Bryant added a season-high 24 and Kilicli scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds for West Virginia.
“We can’t expect KJ to get us 30 and Truck to get us 24 every game – these other guys are going to have to do something,” said Huggins.
Jones was 12 of 17 from the field and made a pair of big 3s. The Mountaineers shot 49.2 percent from the floor but converted only 18 of 31 from the free throw line – the team’s free throw shooting woes have been well-documented this season. WVU came into the game shooting just 60.8 percent from the line.
Fortunately for West Virginia, Kansas State’s free throw shooting wasn’t much better, the Wildcats going 14 of 26, while also shooting 44.1 percent from the floor.
“The only thing that saved us was they were as inept at the free throw line as we were,” said Huggins.
McGruder finished with 20, Spradling added a season-high 16 and Gibson scored 15. Spradling fouled out in the second overtime while Jamar Samuels, named Big 12 player of the week earlier this week, played just 20 minutes and scored just 8 points before fouling out during regulation.
Kansas State led 31-30 at halftime.
West Virginia now has less than 48 hours to get ready for Saturday night’s game against Miami. The Hurricanes dropped a 71-54 decision to 21st-ranked Memphis Tuesday night and will bring a 5-3 record into Morgantown.
“I told them in the locker room, ‘this is great, enjoy it, go laugh and have fun when you get on the plane, but when we get back get your butts in bed, get some sleep, go to class tomorrow and then get in at 4 o’clock and get ready for Miami because this is done – it’s over with,’” said Huggins. “We’ve got a bunch of young guys who can get giddy about things and there is nothing to be giddy about. We’ve got a long, long road to go.”
Saturday’s game, another Family Day, will tipoff at 7 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.