The Mountaineers (13-13, 6-7 Big 12) never could climb back into contention. The K-State lead hovered in double digits for the entirety of the game from that point forward, as both foul trouble and poor play took a toll on the visitors.
Officiating, a hot topic in recent weeks among West Virginia fans and a source of considerable frustration for Huggins, was again part of the story. Guard Eron Harris fouled out despite playing only eight minutes, and officials whistled a total of 49 fouls -- an average of one for every 49 seconds of play.
Huggins picked up a technical foul in the second half, his anger with the officials finally spilling over into a verbal tirade. Harris’ disqualification came on a play that saw him called for both a personal foul and technical foul, as he got tangled up with the Wildcats’ Will Spradling.
But while the men in stripes again made their presences felt, the Mountaineers only had themselves to blame for a completely listless beginning to action, which essentially ended the game before it ever really got started.
Senior forward Deniz Kilicli scored the first points of the game to give WVU a 2-0 lead.
Player of the Game
After that, Kansas State (21-5, 10-3) promptly went on an 18-2 run to take complete control. Will Spradling, Rodney McGruder and Shane Southwell each made a 3-pointer to key the push -- three of K-State’s six trifectas for the entire game.
West Virginia compounded its problems with mistake after mistake. The team committed seven fouls and six turnovers in the first 8:01 of play, scoring only four points in the same span of time.
“As soon as somebody gets up in us with some pressure, we panic,” Huggins told the Mountaineer Sports Network. “The flipside is we trap Spradling, and he doesn’t panic and kind of looks around, can’t find anybody, jumps up and throws it off our guy’s leg, they take it out of bounds, and no harm.
“I tell our guys all the time, you get pressured, it’s not like they have a knife or a gun or a sword. They’re not allowed to touch you, so why would you panic? We threw the ball away early.”
The Mountaineers overcame that poor start and fought to a stalemate for most of the remainder of the first half. Jabarie Hinds scored five quick points in the waning moments to pull his team back within 33-20 at the intermission.
But that was WVU’s last gasp. K-State pushed the lead to 21 points at 43-22 after a 3-pointer from Angel Rodriguez and a technical foul on Huggins. Kilicli responded, scoring nine of his team’s next 10 points to get back within 15 and inspire a bit of emotion from his teammates.
That emotion quickly dissipated though when Harris departed the game after shoving Spradling. Officials called Harris for both a personal foul and a technical foul, sending WVU’s most consistent scorer of late to the bench with his fifth foul.
Any lingering thoughts of a comeback were then quickly put to rest, as Spradling made all four of the ensuing free throws and Angel Rodriguez completed a three-point play to again give K-State a 21-point lead.
“I honestly thought we could make a run in the second half, because Deniz hardly played in the first half, and he has been our go-to guy,” Huggins said. “We just had to find a way to get the ball to him, and you keep hoping that guys are going to make shots. Eron Harris was totally out of the game. It’s the first time he has gotten in foul trouble, and he sat, and he played like a freshman.”
For the Mountaineers, Kilicli was the lone double-figure scorer with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He added four rebounds and two steals. Aaric Murray came off the bench to register nine points and nine rebounds.
“We had one of those days where they didn’t want to play, so you line up and you run. I told them it looked like [Jonestown],” Huggins said. “They’re all on the floor, rolling around like they’re about to die. Deniz has never done that. He has never, ever done that. You find out about people in times of adversity. You find out what they’re made of.”
Kansas State was led by Spradling, who scored a game-high 19 points. Four other Wildcats finished in double figures. Rodriguez frustrated WVU all night, finishing with 11 points and seven assists (though he did turn the ball over six times).
With the NCAA Tournament a goal even Huggins seems to now acknowledge is all but certainly unattainable, Huggins again indicated that he never saw this team’s season-long struggles coming.
“The reality is I probably overscheduled, because I thought we were better than what we are,” the head coach said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever misjudged a group as much as I misjudged this group.”