Shorthanded and on the road, Kansas State played well for the first 20 minutes on Saturday at West Virginia.
But it was in the second 20 minutes where everything went wrong for the Wildcats, who got dismantled in an 85-66 loss to the Mountaineers.
Despite being tied at 34 at halftime without D.J. Johnson, the Wildcats had no answer for West Virginia in the second half and unraveled as the Mountaineers took advantage of every mistake and second chance opportunity.
“They took it to us in the second half,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “We didn’t get stops. They just spread us out, used their dribble, got in the paint and pretty much did whatever they wanted. I thought we lost our poise a little bit to start the second half.”
West Virginia (20-5, 8-4 Big 12) outrebounded the Wildcats 47-26, scored 25 points off of 19 K-State turnovers and finished with 15 second-chance points.
The Mountaineers committed 30 fouls and were called for two technical fouls, but K-State didn’t take advantage at the line where it was 27 of 40.
“Let’s be honest, they missed a lot of free throws,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “That helped us. We can’t take any credit on defending those.”
K-State (16-9, 5-7 Big 12) played with a different starting five for the first time all season after Johnson was made unavailable due to an injury. The Wildcat senior was injured at the end of the Kansas game, but stayed in the game.
“He gave it a little go in warm up,” Weber said. “He just said it was too tender, too sore. It’s a sprained ankle. It’s just a matter of time (before he returns).”
Even without Johnson, the Wildcats came out with all of the energy and took a 14-6 lead.
But the Mountaineers answered with a 17-1 run over the next 6 1/2 minutes to go ahead 23-15.
K-State charged right back to tie the game at 27, and a 3-pointer from Brian Patrick gave the Wildcats a 30-27 lead with 2:46 left in the half.
“We were very focused,” Weber said. “We were scrapping, playing hard, doing all of the little things that matter. When you go against them it’s tough to run offense. You ball screen and you have to jump up and make the shot, make plays. That’s how they make you play.”
The teams played to a 34-34 tie in the final minute of the half, but everything changed after halftime.
K-State opened the half with a 3, but West Virginia took the lead and pushed it to eight points with 14:14 to play, then had the lead up to 57-44 three minutes later.
West Virginia steadily increased its lead from there, until K-State waved the white flag and put its bench in with 2:07 to play.
Four out of five starters finished in double figures for K-State, with Wesley Iwundu scoring a team-high 14 points. Kamau Stokes scored 12; and Patrick added 11 on 4 of 4 shooting.
Barry Brown scored 10 points despite not making a shot from the field.
Xavier Sneed added 10 points.
K-State returns home on Wednesday to host Iowa State at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
BUDKE NAMED ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT
Senior Austin Budke was one of five players named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District VII first team.
Budke, a former walk-on who was awarded an athletic scholarship on Jan 18, has played in 16 games this season, averaging 1.1 points per game and 0.3 rebounds per game in 4.6 minutes per game.
He and teammate Zach Winter transferred from Hutchinson Community college where they posted a 55-14 record in two years.
Budke, a Beloit High School graduate who majors in chemical engineering, has been on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll three times and earned a 4.0 grade-point average in the fall.
Budke is the second straight K-State men’s basketball player to earn the honor, as Brian Rohlender made the All-District VII First Team last year.
Budke advances to the CoSIDA Academic All-American ballot, and the first- second- and third teams will be announced later this month.