MANHATTAN, Kan. — Jermaine Haley did not want to hear about the team aspect to West Virginia’s 71-69 loss against Kansas State on Wednesday.
For that matter, neither did West Virginia forward Derek Culver.
They did not want to hear about costly turnovers or missed free throws by their teammates.
Both players walked out of Bramlage Coliseum believing they were the reason the Mountaineers dropped their third straight Big 12 game to open the conference season.
“Honestly, I feel like I lost this game for us, personally,” Culver said after scoring 17 points and adding 12 rebounds, but his final shot of the night hit the back of the rim with three seconds left in what was WVU’s final shot of the game. “I’ve got to make that shot. I’ve got to make that shot if we want to be a better team.”
Haley went in another direction, but had similar hard feelings.
It was Haley who was charged with guarding Kansas State guard Barry Brown in spurts of the second half. Brown scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half and connected on the game-winner with 28.9 seconds left on a drive to the right side of the basket past Haley.
“He was straight-line driving us, which has been a problem we’ve had for pretty much the whole season,” said Haley who finished with 13 points and three assists. “I blame myself. I take all the blame for that. He was my assignment. I definitely let him get going in the second half and that’s what sparked their run and gave them energy.”
There were several other reasons for this loss.
Esa Ahmad had a costly turnover — his fifth one of the game — with 46.8 seconds left that handed the ball back to K-State to set up Brown’s winning shot.
“We shot 14 of 23 on free throws,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “They made shots and we did not. We trusted people in some iso that did not get it done and they trusted people in iso that did get it done.”
Huggins, then became the third WVU person to take blame for the loss.
“It is my fault,” Huggins continued. “I am in charge of picking the right guy and obviously I did not pick the right guy. It falls on my shoulders.”
WVU had 17 turnovers in all, 11 in the second half. Kansas State turned those 17 turnovers into 25 points.
The last play
As a sign of how much belief Huggins has quickly developed in Culver, a freshman playing in just his fifth collegiate game, he went to him with the final shot to go for the win.
Huggins then called Culver West Virginia’s best player.
“Our best player has practiced all of eight or nine days,” Huggins said. “He is our best player and he is the guy who kept us in the game. We have to continue to work harder with him, because we are working with guys, who quite frankly, aren’t trustworthy.”
As for the shot, Haley hit Culver at the foul line, and Culver then pitched it back to Haley, who then fired it right back to Culver, who got off a six-foot look over Kansas State forward Xavier Sneed.
“I was leaning back,” Culver said. “I didn’t get to zero in on the play like I wanted to. I should have been a little more aggressive.”
West Virginia outrebounded Kansas State, 37-23 and had 14 offensive rebounds to the Wildcats’ five.
West Virginia is 41 of 69 (59.4) percent from the foul line in its three Big 12 losses.
West Virginia has lost those three Big 12 games by a combined 12 points.