MANHATTAN — The offense didn’t come nearly as easy for Kansas State on Monday against West Virginia as it did last Friday in a victory over Iowa State.
Still, K-State was making enough shots to stay within reach of the No. 6 Mountaineers well into the second half. The problem was on the other end of the floor for the Wildcats, who couldn’t come up with enough stops to put together a run.
A 3-pointer by Xavier Sneed had K-State within four points with four minutes to play, but West Virginia quickly built an eight-point lead and beat the Wildcats 77-69 at Bramlage Coliseum.
“We kept the game within a couple of possessions, for the most part, but at the end they just kind of picked us apart,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “They spread us out and he (WVU coach Bob Huggins) ran his old open motion and dribble-drive. They just seemed to make all the right plays at the right time.”
The Wildcats (11-3, 1-1 Big 12) were able to handle the defensive pressure of the Mountaineers (13-1, 2-0) by committing 15 turnovers, but the Cats shot only 38 percent from the field (20 of 56). They actually shot better from 3-point range (10 of 26, 39 percent) than they did inside the arc (10 of 30, 33 percent).
“We talked a lot that when you go to the rim, they’re going to be there,” Weber said. “They swarm to the basketball and you have to make that easy pass, make that extra pass, and we didn’t do enough of it.
“When we were patient and made right, easy passes we were OK. I think we took some tough shots. We could have been a little more patient.”
Sneed was the main offensive force for K-State with 20 points, making 6 of 9 shots from 3-point range and 6 of 11 shots overall.
“I was just exploiting the defense,” Sneed said. “They were in a frenzy defense so a couple of players misread me and my teammates looked for me.”
Dean Wade, coming off a 34-point game at Iowa State, scored 17 points with 10 rebounds but took only eight shots (5 of 8) while going 7 of 9 at the free throw line. Kamau Stokes was 0 for 10 from the field with seven 3-point shots and Barry Brown was 5 of 13.
West Virginia, meanwhile, pushed the ball inside for a 40-18 advantage on points in the paint. Freshman Teddy Allen came off the bench to score 22 points and Lamont West scored 19.
“We were going to take what they gave us,” Huggins said. “They do a great job of packing everything in and making it difficult to score in the lane. We sometimes get 3-point happy and we wanted to make sure we could, one, get some shots off and, two, get to the foul line.
“We have a play card that has about 75 sets on it and I did not find one that I thought would work. We just tried to move them and tried to get them chasing us. I thought if we could get them chasing us we could get it into the lane.”
West Virginia grabbed control early, using a 16-4 surge to open an 18-9 lead after nine minutes. The Wildcats finally got some shots to fall — two buckets by Brown and 3-pointers by Brian Patrick and Brown — to pull within 25-22.
K-State trailed only 31-26 at halftime despite being outshot 52 percent to 28 percent.
“The first half we had some good possessions and we missed some open shots and could never get over the hump and get that rhythm and confidence where we got control of the game,” Weber said. “It just wasn’t there.”
The Wildcats remained within arm’s length in the second half, primarily because of Sneed knocking down 5 of 6 treys, but they could never make a push by combining a couple of buckets with a couple of defensive stops.
After shooting only one free throw the first half, the Mountaineers were 13 of 15 at the line in the second half and 8 of 8 in the final 3:45 after the Sneed trey had K-State within 65-61.
“It had to do with our position on defense,” Wade said. “Our help defense wasn’t great. Coach told us to be in gaps and we were chasing around and when they drove we opened the gate for them. We reached in and when you reach in and swipe down they’re going to call fouls.”