Four days ago, Kansas State was still searching for a quality road win and a signature win for its NCAA Tournament resume.
In just two games, both boxes have been checked.
The Wildcats overcame a 12-point first half deficit and topped No. 7 West Virginia, 79-75, Saturday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum.
“This is a big one, and I want our kids to celebrate it, but we have to be smart and remember what’s ahead,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “This league is so hard and there are so many good coaches and players.”
Kamau Stokes, who was questionable to play after suffering an ankle injury at Oklahoma State Wednesday night, scored 15 points and was among five double-figure scorers.
Barry Brown joined him with 15 of his own, all in the second half of action.
But only a complete team effort could deliver a win against the Mountaineers, and that’s what Weber’s squad delivered.
D.J. Johnson. Wesley Iwundu and Dean Wade combined to score 40 points and grab 22 rebounds.
K-State (15-4, 4-3 Big 12) jumped out to an early 9-2 lead before WVU took command of the majority of the first half. The Mountaineers led by as many as 12, but Stokes led a 10-0 run in the final three minutes before halftime and give his team momentum.
“He showed a lot of toughness and courage,” Weber said. “Our whole team did.”
The Wildcats slowly built a lead in the second half, which got as large as 11 with 9:47 to go. But K-State would have to overcome a questionable and momentum-shifting flagrant foul call on Iwundu to earn the victory.
WVU rallied to take a one-point lead with five minutes left. The Wildcats, who have been snakebitten by officiating in two other Big 12 games, refused to concede.
“I told the guys to settle down,” Weber said. “All we had to do was make plays, and eventually we did.”
K-State finished the game on a 12-7 run and secured the win at the free throw line, which had been a struggle all afternoon.
After turning the ball over 11 times in the first half against WVU’s “Press Virginia” style, the Wildcats only committed five in the final 20 minutes.
The Wildcats return to action next Tuesday at Iowa State.
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