Thursday, October 8, 2015

Wildcats survive slugfest at Bramlage

No, Monday’s game didn’t just end, it only feels like it.

Marred by 49 fouls and more than 50 combined free throws, Big Monday turned into a long Monday, as 13th-ranked Kansas State outlasted West Virginia and former Wildcats’ coach Bob Huggins, 71-61, at Bramlage Coliseum.

The Wildcats spoiled Huggins’ first trip to Manhattan since leaving after his only season at K-State in 2006-07 in a game that last nearly two-and-a-half hours and featured two more made free throws than field goals.

K-State, which won its second straight game since losing at Kansas last Monday, was 19 of 23 at the line, while the Mountaineers were 23 of 30.

Perhaps expecting a game of this nature because of his traditionally physical defenses, Huggins expressed more displeasure in his team’s 40 percent (17 of 42) shooting effort from the field.

“If they foul, they’re supposed to call a foul aren’t they?” said Huggins, who was greeted with a modest clap by Wildcat fans before the game. “What’s frustrating is that we couldn’t make a damn shot.”

Huggins was called for a technical foul with 16:25 to play in the game after barking and gesturing in the direction of an official across the court. The former Wildcat coach wanted a foul called on Nino Williams after the Mountaineers’ Deniz Kilicli missed a shot in the low post.

The Mountaineers (13-13, 6-7 Big 12) were called for their second technical foul seven minutes later when Eron Harris caught Will Spradling with a high elbow, knocking the Wildcats’ guard to the ground. Harris was tagged with is fourth personal foul and the technical, causing him to foul out, while Spradling went to the line and made four straight free throws to give K-State a 58-40 lead.

“We talked about it in several huddles, ‘just keep your poise and let them do whatever they need to do and don’t retaliate,’ K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “There’s no doubt about it, you have to stand your ground. At one point, I asked, ‘what do you want us to do, let them just cut and get a layup?’ You have to guard them somehow.”

The whistle was blown so many times in the second half it was difficult for either team to establish any kind of rhythm. West Virginia went to the line 23 times in the second half alone, while the Wildcats shot 15 free throws. The Mountaineers made eight more shot from the foul line than from the field in the final 20 minutes.

“We had little runs and they had little runs and then it got disrupted,” Weber said. “It’s a very physical game and I’m pleased our kids kept their poise for the most part…”

At one point in the second half, the Wildcats (21-5, 10-3) attempted eight straight free throws in 60 seconds, while WVU made 14 trips to the line in a span of nine minutes, separated by just four shots from the field.

“It was a very physical game,” Weber said. “Coach Huggins’ teams play great defense and are very physical — they try to disrupt you… It was just a very hard game to officiate. I know people get upset and I got upset a little, but I would not take their job for anything. That was a hard game. I thought they managed it pretty well, for the most part. We talked about keeping our poise and staying the course.”

The Wildcats stayed the course, and despite so many game disruptions, still shot 50 percent from the field — 11 of 22 in the first half and 12 of 24 in the second half. K-State was 12 of 15 from the foul line in the second half, surviving the 14-point second-half effort by the Mountaineers’ Kilicli, whose physicality inside forced the Wildcats’ Jordan Henriquez, Shane Southwell and Thomas Gipson into foul trouble for much of the night.

“That big guy, he posts up so hard, and I told our guys, ‘don’t back down, we still have to guard,’” Weber said. “He hits you and you come back trying to fight around it, and you get the foul. You just have to take it, shut up and keep playing, find a way to win, and that’s what we did.”

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