MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — It was a 19-2 run that began by West Virginia leaving Kansas State big man Makol Mawien wide open under the basket for a dunk.
It was a 19-2 run that sent most of a sparse WVU Coliseum crowd that was announced by the school as 9,266 fans toward the exits.
It was a run that best exemplified why Kansas State is at the top of the Big 12 standings and the Mountaineers are at the bottom.
With the game tied at 42 with 11:55 remaining Monday, Kansas State’s 19-2 run propelled it to a runaway 65-51 victory.
The referees, “Should have called three seconds [lane violation, on Mawien]. I think he was open under the basket for about eight seconds,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “We couldn’t find him.”
“That was a very big miscommunication,” West Virginia forward Derek Culver added. “I fell asleep a couple of times and let the guy get behind me. I’ll say that one was on me. My teammates were in the right position, but I fell asleep.”
For a spell of nearly six minutes during the run, the Mountaineers’ offense nearly fell asleep, too.
Not Kansas State, which saw Xavier Sneed make three 3-pointers and connect on two free throws during the run and Kamau Stokes hit a nice pull-up jumper and scored another from the wing.
West Virginia simply did not respond. Instead, the Mountaineers threw passes that went to the wrong people and went through a scoring drought that lasted 5:21.
“We win these road games and you do that with experience,” Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber said. “They poised and they stay focused. You only have a chance if you guard on the road. The dunk and then Xavier hit a three. West Virginia, if you watch them, there’s always a breaking point where someone takes it over.
“They were playing with Tennessee and the Texas game was a four-point game at halftime, and then all of a sudden it’s a 16, 18 point game. I was surprised when I looked up at the scoreboard. Boom, we were up 14 points and we even messed up a couple of plays.”
Brandon Knapper’s transition lay-up with 6:34 left was the Mountaineers’ only basket during the run. It was far from being enough.
Disguised as a Big 12 basketball game, the first half was more like a tug-of-war, complete with two 3-second violation by the Mountaineers (10-16, 2-11 Big 12) as part of their 10 turnovers before halftime.
Kansas State (20-6, 10-3) was not much better. The Wildcats were called for 12 fouls, most of them trying to handle Culver in the post and turned it over eight times.
“We had no answer for Culver,” Weber said. “Except just keep putting more guys in to foul him, I guess.”
Neither team shot better than 40 percent from the field in the first half. Chase Harler’s 3-pointer with 1:16 remaining was the Mountaineers’ only field goal in the final 7:30 of the first half.
The highlight may have come with former WVU star Jevon Carter, now with the Memphis Grizzlies, making an appearance and donating $27,500 to the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment, which earned a nice ovation.
The drama was Kansas State forward Dean Wade showing up for warm-ups one game after re-injuring his foot that cost him six games earlier this season.
The Big 12’s preseason Player of the Year was considered questionable coming into the game, but was in the Wildcats’ starting lineup.
“You just have to give him credit to come back,” Weber said. “Our trainers really put a lot of time in. Dean kind of shot free throws today. [Stokes] was banged up, too. He only shot around a little bit before the game. I’m proud of both of them. They both stepped and played the way they did. We needed them.”
Wade played 32 minutes and finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Stokes added seven points and three assists.
In any case, it was a complete opposite of the first meeting earlier this season, in which the Mountaineers raced out to a 21-point lead, before Kansas State shot 62 percent and scored 50 second-half points to pull off a comeback win that began a nine-game Big 12 winning streak for the Wildcats that propelled them to the top of the standings.
“It was a game-saving win for our season,” Weber said.
The Wildcats will remain there after this win and are now a full game ahead of both Kansas and Texas Tech, who play each other Saturday.
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, are the first team in the Big 12 to reach 11 losses in the conference this season. Oklahoma State’s 68-61 win over TCU on Monday puts the Cowboys a full game ahead of WVU and into ninth place in the conference.
“I thought we played hard,” Huggins said. “We had some breakdowns that let them make a spread in the game. I don’t think our errors were a lack of hustle, but we have to do a better job of sticking with the game plan. You’re not going to win a game shooting 34 percent. We have to make shots.”
Culver was again one of West Virginia’s few bright spots, finishing with his sixth double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. It was his fifth consecutive game with at least 10 rebounds.
In all, the Mountaineers were 35 percent shooting (18 of 52) and they turned it over 15 times. It was the Mountaineers’ fourth consecutive game shooting under 40 percent from the field. WVU’s four-game losing streak is its second-longest of the season and the four losses have come by an average of 23 points.
Lamont West, now playing more of a low-post game after teammates Esa Ahmad and Wes Harris were dismissed from the team last week, led WVU with 16 points.
Kansas State shot 50 percent in the second half and hit nine 3-pointers for the game.
Brown led the Wildcats with 21 points and Sneed added 19.
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