MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Shane Southwell’s two free throws with 21.4 seconds left lifted 18th-ranked Kansas State to a 65-64 victory over West Virginia in Big 12 Conference action Saturday afternoon at the WVU Coliseum.
Following Southwell’s pair of free throws, the Mountaineers had two cracks to win the game. The first opportunity came with 11 seconds left when Jabarie Hinds drove the ball to the rim and his floater drew iron but bounced off. However, West Virginia was able to regain possession of the basketball near the Mountaineer bench when it was knocked out of bounds by the Wildcats.
With nine seconds now showing on the clock, Coach Bob Huggins used his final timeout to try and draw up a winning play. The inbound pass was deflected into the backcourt where Gary Browne retrieved it with only four seconds left. He frantically took off toward the basket and was able to get a shot off ahead of the horn, but it was deflected by Southwell to end the game.
"I thought we competed for the most part," said Huggins. "The problem is we don't do it for a consistent period of time. Did all nine guys that played compete? Absolutely not. Most of them did."
Today’s contest appeared to be following the same pattern that led to West Virginia’s win at Texas on Wednesday night when the Mountaineers dug themselves a hole in the second half, this time trailing by seven, 48-41, with 14:29 to go, but West Virginia battled back to tie it at 50 on a 3-pointer by Hinds with 10 minutes remaining.
K-State led by three, 59-56, with 4:10 left and also by three, 63-60, with 2:14 to go, but West Virginia answered with back-to-back baskets by Aaric Murray and freshman Eron Harris, the guard's big bucket coming from the baseline with only 25 seconds left.
Free throw shooting, which has been a strength for West Virginia this season, didn't come through for Mountaineers this afternoon. West Virginia was just 12 of 22 from the line, including four big misses inside of eight minutes to play. Two of those were front ends of one-and-ones.
"Every game is going to be close and you certainly can not miss free throws and then every call becomes a lot more important," said Huggins.
Kansas State (13-2, 2-0) led for the majority of the first half, with the exception of the start of the game, and a brief period late in the first half when a Harris free throw gave the Mountaineers a 28-27 lead.
Southwell and Rodney McGruder led the Wildcats with 17 points each.
Hinds scored 15, Murray came off the bench to contribute 11 and freshman guard Terry Henderson added 10 for the Mountaineers, now 8-7, 1-2.
"I don't make excuses," said Huggins. "But we started two sophomores and a freshman on the perimeter. Our first sub off the bench was a freshman. We make some mistakes because we are young."
"They have quickness and when they get their inside game going they're tough to stop," said Kansas State coach Bruce Weber. "They get good spacing, especially when they make 3s like they did today. They're going to win some games here."
West Virginia shot 51.1 percent from the floor (24 of 47) and stuck close to Kansas State on the glass, trailing by one (28-27) in that department. The Wildcats came into today’s game ranked second in the nation in offensive rebounding by grabbing an average of 16.4 per game. Today, Kansas State was limited to just nine.
K-State also shot 51 percent from the floor (25 of 49) and hit 6 of 17 from 3-point distance.
Juwan Staten, WVU’s second leading scorer who sat out the second half of Wednesday night’s win at Texas, did not see action against Kansas State this afternoon.
"He has to get on the same page as me or he is not going to play anymore," said Huggins.
The Mountaineers have now dropped both Big 12 contests at home this year and will take to the road for a pair of games next week. First, West Virginia faces Iowa State in Ames on Wednesday night before stepping outside of conference play one final time on Saturday afternoon to take on Purdue in a game that will be televised nationally on CBS.
"You play 18 league games and we have lost two at home," said Huggins. "The best we can do is 7-2 now at home."
Kansas State continues on the road in conference play at TCU next Wednesday night.