Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

NOTEBOOK: Sean McNeil overcomes bumps and a poke to the eye to lead West Virginia past Kansas State

MORGANTOWN — Sean McNeil took a hard bump to the gut and then a poke in the eye Wednesday.

In the end, McNeil nailed two free throws with 39 seconds remaining that sealed West Virginia’s 73-67 victory against Kansas State in the first round of the Big 12 tournament at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.

“The first one, I just got the wind knocked out of me,” said McNeil, who was the hero on this night with 21 points on 7 of 10 shooting. “I didn’t think it was flagrant or intention or anything like that. I just lost my breath for a minute.”


McNeil called Kansas State a physical team that plays hard.

That’s shown in the two previous meetings this season. Kansas State shot 39 free throws in one game. The Wildcats were whistled for at least 20 fouls in both meetings.

That changed somewhat in Kansas City, as referees didn’t call as many fouls as expected. Kansas State (14-17) committed 15 fouls and went to the foul line just 12 times.

McNeil was able to take advantage of the refs letting guys play. He hit five of his first eight shots and three of his first five 3-point attempts.

This coming from a guy who was a combined 3 of 17 from the floor in his previous two games.

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen a three go in, at least consitently,” McNeil said. “It was definitely refreshing. We came into this game as it being a new season, and I took it that way, as well.”

K-State shoots from deep

For a third time this season, Kansas State’s best success came from the 3-point line against West Virginia.
The Wildcats finished 11 of 30 from behind the line Wednesday.

In the first two meetings against WVU, K-State combined for 22 threes.

WVU (16-16) entered the game allowing 6.5 3-pointers per game, fourth-most in the Big 12.

“They have a good bunch of guards,” WVU guard Taz Sherman said. “The played great. I feel like we came out ready to play. They made a run and then we made our own run and locked down defensively toward the end.”

Nijel Pack led K-State with 18 points and Mark Smith added 17. Those two guards combined for six of the Wildcats’ 11 3-pointers.

Battle of the boards

WVU came away with a 33-28 edge in rebounding, which is the third consecutive game the Mountaineers have led in that category.

The perimeter players did most of the damage with Sherman leading the way with nine boards and Sean McNeil and Jalen Bridges each adding six.

Most of the rebounds were on the defensive end. Both WVU and Kansas State had six offensive rebounds.

News and notes

** WVU is now 9-8 overall in Big 12 tournament play.

** Sherman missed a double-double by one point and one rebound, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds. In 89 career games at WVU, Sherman has never had a double-double. His nine rebounds were a career high.

** WVU outscored Kansas State in the paint 32-22.

** WVU shot 52.8% from the floor (28 of 53). That’s the second-highest percentage on the season, trailing only the loss at Baylor on Jan. 31, in which the Mountaineers shot 54.2%

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WHEN: 3 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: T-Mobile Center, Kansas City, Mo.
TV: ESPN (Comcast 35, HD 850; DirecTV 206; DISH 140)