By Ryan Decker, Originally written for West Virginia Illustrated
Much like the Mountaineer football team, the West Virginia basketball team likes to start fast. WVU likes to use its swarming press to cause turnovers that lead to easy baskets early.
It didn’t Saturday.
No. 7 West Virginia (15-4) suffered its second-straight loss, 79-75, as the Mountaineers committed more turnovers than they forced for the second game in a row.
Shooting woes plagued the Mountaineers early on.
WVU started the game 0-6 from the floor, missing shots both in the paint and from beyond the arch. West Virginia didn’t make its first field goal attempt until nearly six minutes into the game on a long 3-pointer by Tarik Phillip.
Phillip’s long ball not only cut the Mountaineers’ deficit to 9-5, but kick started a 16-1 run to give his team the lead as WVU began to find it’s stroke from the outside.
Jevon Carter, coming off arguably his best performance in a WVU uniform, knocked down a three from well behind the three-point line, and Phillip made his second 3-pointer as part of the run that put Press Virginia out in front 18-10 and led to a KSU timeout.
Phillip led all scorers with 20 points.
Daxter Miles Jr. got in on the long-range shooting act later in the half, getting the friendly bounce at the end of his shot from the corner right in front of the Wildcat bench.
Kansas State continued to hang around, despite continuing to struggle shooting from deep. Instead, the Wildcats found success scoring in the paint, ending the opening half on a 10-0 run. Stokes made the final shot of the first 20 minutes, floating a layup over the WVU defense just as time expired cutting WVU’s 12-point lead down to just two, 38-36.
Kansas State began the second half in a similar fashion that it started the first, as the Wildcats regained the lead.
Turnovers continued to pile up for WVU. After committing 13 turnovers in the first half, the Mountaineers committed three more in the opening three minutes of the second.
As West Virginia had a hard time hanging onto the ball, KSU continued to extend its lead, pushing it out to 50-44 prior to a media timeout.
Another giveaway by the Mountaineers turned into a layup for Wesley Iwundu, forcing Bob Huggins to call a timeout. To that point in the game, WVU had committed more turnovers (17) than it had made shots from the field (14).
West Virginia finished the game with 23 giveaways, the same number as field goals made in the contest.
The Wildcats’ lead grew as large as nine points before Phillip made a 3-pointer midway through the half. However, KSU’s leading scorer Barry Brown knocked down a longball of his own on the other end to once again force a WVU timeout.
West Virginia clawed its way back to within one possession and momentarily regained the lead at 66-65 with just over five minutes to go.
Brown, Stokes and Iwundu became too much late. A layup by Iwundu put KSU in front by five, a pair of free throws by Brown a minute later once again made it a two-possession ballgame.
Instead of tying the game following a block on the other end, Esa Ahmad turned the ball over, which led to an easy layup for Brown that effectively put the game out of reach.
Brown and Stokes led K-State in scoring, each tallying 15 points. In total, five Wildcat players ended the game in double figures scoring.
Elijah Macon and Brandon Watkins became the first players to foul out of a game this season for WVU.
West Virginia hosts No. 2 Kansas Tuesday inside the Coliseum. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.