MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Shane Southwell saved his biggest plays for the end.
With 21 seconds left and Kansas State trailing West Virginia by one on the road, Southwell made a pair of free throws to put the Wildcats in front 65-64.
And in the final seconds of the game, Southwell emphatically blocked a potential game-winning shot by Gary Browne to seal the win.
Southwell, who scored a career-best 17 points, said the made free throws at the end were something out of a dream.
“That’s something you dream about as a kid,” he said. “It’s just free throws. You follow your routine and you’re going to make them.”
West Virginia (8-7, 1-2 Big 12) led the game 64-63 when Southwell was tripped by Dominique Rutledge with 21 seconds to play. The crowd of more than 10,000 was never louder than on the two shots from the K-State (13-2, 2-0) junior, but he sunk both without a doubt.
Southwell said he’d experienced similar moments before, but never with a crowd so loud.
His will to win overcame it all.
“I just wanted to win,” Southwell said. “We fought too hard for that game. They fought hard — they played well. We just needed to find a way to win.”
Jabarie Hinds got a shot off for the Mountaineers early in the ensuing possession, but the ball bounced hard off the rim and was deflected out by Rodney McGruder with 11 seconds.
On the in-bound play, K-State guard Angel Rodriguez made a move at the ball and deflected it, sending the final play of the game into chaos.
Brown took the ball across half court and drove hard for the basket, where he was met by Southwell, and had his shot blocked. Southwell knocked the ball away as the clock expired and celebrated emphatically towards an area of the West Virginia student section.
“A couple of the guys in the corner, the West Virginia fans, were getting at me all game,” he said. “I just wanted to get it out.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said they were looking to run a play they had success with in the past.
“(We) run the play that we ran for Da’Sean (Butler) when he made five game winning shots,” he said. “I just know we didn’t get it.”
Wildcats’ coach Bruce Weber said it was a nice road win for his team.
“I told them last night, like I did before George Washington, that we just want to win by one, and we did,” he said. “I’d like to win by 20, but that’s probably not going to happen.”
K-State led by three at halftime, but it was erased in the first two minutes of the second half, as the Mountaineers scored four straight baskets, with two from Terry Henderson, to go ahead 41-36.
The Wildcats would come right back, getting a bucket from McGruder and a 3 from Southwell to tie the game. Martavious Irving added a basket and McGruder knocked down a 2 and a 3 to complete a 12-0 run to put K-State ahead 48-41.
It wouldn’t last, though.
West Virginia came charging right back, with center Aaric Murray scoring six straight points to cut the lead to 48-47, handing Jordan Henriquez his fourth foul in the process.
The Mountaineers would tie the game at 50 with 10:47 to play on a 3-pointer from Hinds, and then took a 53-52 lead with 8:10 to play on a Rutledge free throw.
West Virginia would push its lead to 56-54 after Henriquez fouled out, but Rodriguez made a 3-pointer and Shane Southwell scored in the lane to put the Wildcats out ahead by three points, 59-56, with 4:07 to play.
The Wildcats led until the final minute of the game, when Eron Harris made an off-balance shot to put the Mountaineers ahead 64-63 with 25 seconds left.
The Wildcats got 17 points from McGruder, coming off his 28-point performance against Oklahoma State, while Rodriguez had nine points. Hinds had 15 for West Virginia, while Murray scored 11.
The first half was marred by fouls and turnovers for the Wildcats, who were whistled for 13 fouls to the Mountaineers five, and turned the ball over eight times. Each of K-State’s starters had two fouls at the first half except for Southwell, leaving the Wildcats to play the final five minutes of the first half with several players from the bench.
Still, K-State managed to score points in the first half, and held a 36-33 lead at halftime.
The Wildcats led by as much as five in the first half, using an early 7-2 run to go ahead 14-9 at the 13:06 mark.
The Mountaineers — who entered the game shooting 29 percent from 3 on the season — made their first three shots from the perimeter and finished the first half 3-for-4, with their only miss being a full court heave at the end of the half.
The game was billed as a contest between two teams that hadn’t shot the ball very well this season, but both teams shot 51 percent from the field, including nearly 70 percent in the first half.
“I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted that both teams shoot 51 percent,” Weber said. “We’ve both had offensive woes all year. They’re better than people realize — they’re going to win some games here.”
The Wildcats are off to their first 2-0 start in Big 12 play since the 2008 season, when a Michael Beasley-led team started off 5-0.
McGruder said they have to keep plugging away when they face TCU on Wednesday on the road.
“I haven’t been 2-0 since I’ve been here,” he said. “It feels great but you’ve got to keep going. You’ve got to push further.”