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K-State falls apart late, loses at WVU

By Joel Jellison

This has happened before.

A little too often if you’re Kansas State.

On the road, trailing by eight at halftime to West Virginia, the Wildcats rallied to tie the game at 53 and later had a chance to take the lead with less than three minutes to play.

Instead, just like last week’s game at Iowa State, K-State made costly mistakes down the stretch to lose its fourth straight road game, 81-71, at WVU Coliseum.

With less than three minutes remaining, the Mountaineers (13-9, 5-4 Big 12) missed two shots at the basket and lost an offensive rebound out of bounds to give the Wildcats (15-7, 5-4) a chance to take the lead, down 68-67 with 2:40 left.

But Thomas Gipson threw the ball out of bounds in front of the K-State bench and the Mountaineers’ Remi Dibo answered on the other end with a 3-pointer to make it a four-point game.

Gipson was then called for a foul that led to a pair of free throws from Terry Henderson, followed by another turnover — this time by Marcus Foster, as he was trying to get the ball to Gipson.

Still not out of it, down 73-67, Shane Southwell came away with a steal, but got trapped on the sideline and tried to throw the ball off a defender’s leg. Instead, the official ruled Southwell was out of bounds.

Juwan Staten then capped the Mountaineers’ victory and a career night with a dunk, giving him 35 points.

“We didn’t do a good job,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said in his postgame radio show. “They fought us for some passes, some handoffs and we didn’t react well.

“We had three turnovers down the stretch, and then we didn’t make free throws. We didn’t get a lot, but we didn’t make them.”

Staten, who turned the ball over eight times when the teams first met in Manhattan on Jan. 18, was 8 of 13 from the field and 18 of 21 from the free-throw line on Saturday, while finishing with just two giveaways.

The West Virginia point guard was surgical in his breaking down of the Wildcats, attacking the paint at will and going to the free-throw line whenever the Mountaineers needed it most.

Though Staten did most of the damage,  West Virginia was 29 of 37 from the line overall. K-State was a collective 8 of 19 from the charity stripe.

“I don’t know how you guard him,” Weber said of Staten. “If they’re going to call everything with him, they have to call it down here too. I’m not sure how you call it that way.”

The first half started off well for the Wildcats, but then it eventually turned into a disaster. The Wildcats got off to an early five-point lead, but the Mountaineers came back quickly and the teams battled to 21-all.

From there, West Virginia just made three more field goals the rest of the half, but made 12 free throws to push ahead by eight points at the break.

During the same stretch, the Wildcats made four goals and attempted no free throws.

“We’ve got to play better,” Weber said. “Will (Spradling) had three turnovers at halftime. He hasn’t had three in how many games? Somehow I’ve got to help them on the road. We’ve been bad on the road in the first half.”

The Wildcats slipped behind 42-32 early in the second half after Staten hit just his 13th 3-pointer of the season. K-State outscored the Mountaineers 21-11 during the next seven minutes to tie the game at 53.

But the Wildcats couldn’t maintain the momentum and quickly fell behind, 60-53. Down by seven at 68-61, K-State had a quick six-point scoring burst to pull within one point before it all fell apart again.

It was the second straight road game that saw the Wildcats squander a late chance to take the lead after coming from behind.

“Second half, we gave ourselves a chance,” Weber said. “We just didn’t make plays down the stretch.”

Foster was 10 of 16 from the field for a team-high 23 points.

“Marcus was pretty good in the second half,” Weber said. “We challenged him at halftime and not only did he score and put us on his back, but he also guarded Staten better than anyone for us.”

Gipson added 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. Spradling finished with nine points, while Southwell had just five

With Staten, West Virginia had four players reach double figures — including 13 from Henderson, 11 from Eron Harris and 10 from Dibo.

The Wildcats host the surging Texas Longhorns next Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Texas upset No. 6 Kansas, 81-69, on Saturday.

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