MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia used a big second-half performance to end No. 11/11 Kansas State’s 4-game winning streak on Saturday afternoon, as the Mountaineers earned the 600th win at the WVU Coliseum with an 89-81 victory over the Wildcats before a sold-out crowd of 14,000 on Senior Day.
K-State (23-8, 11-7 Big 12) will be the No. 3 seed at next week’s Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship and will play the No. 6 seed and No. 22/22 TCU (20-11, 9-9 Big 12) at 8:30 p.m., CT on Thursday in the quarterfinals. The Wildcats finished in a tie for third place with No. 7/8 Baylor (22-9, 11-7 Big 12) and earned the No. 3 seed due to their regular season sweep of the Bears. It is the highest conference finish since winning the Big 12 title in 2018-19.
It was a tale of two halves, as K-State connected on just 38.9 percent (14-of-36) from the field in the second half after hitting on 51.6 percent (16-of-31) in the first half. In contrast, West Virginia (18-13, 7-11 Big 12) hit on 57.7 percent (15-of-26) with 50 points in the second half after shooting 45.5 percent (15-of-33) in the opening half. The Mountaineers finished at 50.8 percent (30-of-59) from the field compared to the Wildcats’ 44.8 percent (30-of-67).
K-State led 8-0 to start and built as much as 10-point advantage in the first half before WVU used a 15-3 run to take its first lead at 33-31 with 4:28 before halftime. The Mountaineers scored the final 4 points of the half to take a 39-37 lead into the break then used that momentum to construct as much as a 15-point lead in the second half.
It was a fast-paced game, as the teams combined for 43 points off 36 turnovers, including 24 steals, and a combined 50 fast-break points. WVU got the better of K-State in all 3 categories, including a 23-20 edge in points off turnovers, 14-10 on steals and a 30-20 advantage in fast-break points.
Although K-State knocked 12 3-pointers, which was one shy of its season-high, WVU countered with 13 more points from the free throw line, where it went 22 of 25.
Three Wildcats scored in double figures led by 24 points each from seniors Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell. It marked the fifth time this season that both All-America candidates topped the 20-point barrier in the same game, including the fourth time in Big 12 play. The duo came into the game ranking fourth among power conferences teams at 34.4 points per game, including 37.0 points per game in league play. They combined to go 17-of-41 from the field, including 10-of-21 from 3-point range.
Nowell once again flirted with a triple-double, finishing with game-highs in both assists (8) and steals (6). Sophomore Cam Carter also posted double figures with 13 points to go with a season-high 5 assists.
Johnson scored 16 of his 24 points in the first half to pace all scorers, while Nowell scored all 24 of his points in the second half, as he knocked down 6 3-pointers. The 24 points tied for the ninth-most by a Wildcat in a second half and were the most since Barry Brown Jr., had 26 points vs. Oklahoma State in 2018.
K-State played without senior Desi Sills, who did not travel with the team due to a family funeral. A candidate for the Big 12’s Sixth Man Award, Sills had started each of the last 4 games during the winning streak.
West Virginia got a tremendous lift from its seniors in their final home game, as the trio of Erik Stevenson (27 points), Kedrian Johnson (23 points) and Emmitt Matthews Jr. (20 points) combined for 70 of the 89 points.
Stevenson led all scorers with 27 points on 11-of-22 field goals, including 5-of-14 from 3-point range, while Johnson scored 14 of his 23 points at the free throw line on 15 attempts to go with 6 assists and 6 steals. Matthews went 9-of-11 from the field to go with a team-tying 6 rebounds and 4 steals.
With the win, WVU evened the season series, while earning its fourth straight over K-State at home.
HOW IT HAPPENED
K-State had a strong start to the game, scoring the first 8 points and force an early timeout by West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins at the 17:47 mark. The timeout seemed to spark the Mountaineers, as they scored 14 of the next 19 points to take their first lead at 14-13 on a putback dunk by senior Emmitt Matthews just after the first media time at the 14:30 mark. The spurt was highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers from senior Erik Stevenson.
The Wildcats responded to the run with one of their own, scoring 11 in a row to regain the lead and push it to 24-14 after a layup by sophomore Cam Carter. Senior Keyontae Johnson and junior Ismael Massoud combined for 9 points in the run, including 2 basket-rattling dunks by Johnson.
The Mountaineers slowly chipped away at the deficit, using a 10-4 run before a spurt of 7 straight tied the game at 31-all and force head coach Jerome Tang to call a timeout with 4:49 before the half. They regained the lead at 33-31 on a pair of free throws by senior Kedrian Johnson just 23 seconds later.
The teams went back and forth in the last few minutes of the first half before WVU took a 39-37 lead into the halftime break with 4 straight points to end the half. Johnson led all scorers with 16 points, while senior Markquis Nowell dished out 7 assists and grabbed 5 steals.
WVU continued its momentum to start the second half, extending the lead to 48-41 after a pair of free throws by Kedrian Johnson with 17:31 to play. The Mountaineers maintained their lead over the next few minutes with the Wildcats closing to within 61-57 after a 3-pointer by Johnson with 10:52 remaining. However, the home squad was able to take advantage of a controversial goaltending call on a layup by Nowell, responding with a 9-2 run to push their lead to double figures at 70-59 with just over 7:27 to play.
The Mountaineers were able to build as much as a 15-point lead twice down the stretch, including 84-69 after a driving layup by Stevenson with 2:40 to play. The Wildcats stayed in the fight until the very end, closing to within 8 points twice in the final minute, including the final score of 89-81 after a layup by Carter with 13 seconds.
IN THEIR WORDS
Head Coach Jerome Tang
On the game…
“First of all, I want to give credit to West Virginia, especially those seniors. It’s always tough on Senior Night because some guys try to do too much, and some guys try not to do too much. Early, we were able to jump on them, but they settled down and played like how seniors on Senior Night are supposed to play. Credit to them and what they were able to do, especially in the second half. We couldn’t guard them. They were really good, so credit to (West Virginia) coach (Bob) Huggins and those guys. I’m thankful for my team and the conference record we’ve been able to compile. We knew this would be tough, especially without (senior guard) Desi (Sills) today, but I was very proud of our effort. I’m looking forward to the Big 12 Tournament.”
On the impact of Desi Sills not playing…
“Defensively, ball-handling, being able to run certain things. Last few games or so, we had gotten into a really good rotation of subbing and things that we thought we’d be effective with both on the offensive end, and this just changed everything. It was a good learning experience, though. Some things happened out there that haven’t happened during the last five games that are things we can address and be ready and more prepared for the next time. He’ll be back for the Big 12 Tournament.”
On the difficulty in defending WVU’s scorers…
“First of all, they turned us over 20 times and out in transition, there’s no defense for transition. Live ball turnovers — there’s not any defense for that. In their home wins, they’ve made 23 free throws, and tonight they made 22. There’s no defense at the free throw line. When (West Virginia fifth-year senior guard Erik) Stevenson decides he’s going to rise up over the top of you and drill shots the way he was, it makes it hard.”
On using this game as preparation for the Big 12 Tournament…
“I know we both wanted to win the game. (For WVU) not only because it’s Senior Night, but because people are saying they’re on the bubble. That’s everybody outside of the Big 12 who says there’s a Big 12 team on the bubble, because any team in our league is an NCAA Tournament team and can win games in the NCAA Tournament. There’s nothing like it. This is my 20th year in this league. It’s never been this good from top to bottom. Unfortunately, we beat each other up. I’m not positive, but I think they (WVU) had the top strength-of-schedule, non-conference wise. Pittsburgh is tied for first in the ACC, and they beat them by 30. Alabama lost at OU by 30. We just have really good teams in our league. They had motivation for what they wanted to do today. I always tell the team, where we want to go, we call that place the fire. Everybody wants the trophy and the confetti to fall, but you have to think, what does it look like 20 minutes before the trophy ceremony and the confetti falls. That’s a place of fire. It’s chaotic. The crowd is going crazy. You have to try and communicate. It’s a tough situation to be in, and you have to be able to be calm in those tough situations. It was great because we hadn’t been on the road in a minute, so now we have some things we can go back and work on. They can learn a bit better about what it means to be in that place of fire.”
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE
- K-State ended the regular season with a 23-8 overall record, including an 11-7 mark in Big 12 play… It is the most wins in a regular season since winning 24 in 2018-19.
- K-State finished in a tie for third place with No. 7/8 Baylor (22-9, 11-7 Big 12) and locked up the No. 3 seed at next week’s Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship by virtue of its season sweep of the Bears… It is the highest Big 12 finish since winning the league title in 2018-19.
- The 23 wins tie for the second-most by a first-year head coach, trailing the school-record of 27 by Bruce Weber in 2012-13 and tying the 23 by Bob Huggins in 2006-07.
- The loss snapped K-State’s 4-game winning streak, as the Wildcats finished 4-7 in true road games.
- WVU evened the regular-season series at 1-win each and now leads the all-time series, 16-10, including 9-3 at home… The Mountaineers have won the last 4 games at the WVU Coliseum.
- K-State scored its 81 points on 44.8 percent (30-of-67) shooting, including 42.9 percent (12-of-28) from 3-point range, while connecting 75 percent (9-of-12) from the free throw line.
- K-State has now scored 80 or more points in 11 games, equaling the 11 in 2017-18.
- K-State had 18 assists on its 30 made field goals with 4 Wildcats dishing out at least 2 assists.
- K-State scored 20 fast-break points, which marked the third time this season and the second straight game with 20 or more fast-break points.
- K-State scored 20 points off 16 West Virginia turnovers, which included 10 steals… The Wildcats have now scored 20 or more points off turnovers in 8 games, including the third time in Big 12 play.
- WVU held a slight 33-29 advantage on the glass, including 11 offensive rebounds… The Wildcats are now 4-5 this season when losing the rebounding battle.
- West Virginia led 39-37 at half after scoring the last 4 points of the first half… Senior Keyontae Johnson led all scorers with 16 points, while senior Markquis Nowell had 7 assists and 5 steals.
- K-State is now 9-5 this season when trailing at the half.
- Three Wildcats scored in double figures, including 24 points each by seniors Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell… The team has had at least 3 double-digit scorers in 28 of 31 games.
- Johnson scored a team-tying 24 points on 10-of-21 field goals, including 4-of-9 from 3-point range, to go with 6 rebounds and 2 assists in 38 minutes… It was his 17th career 20-point game, including his ninth as a Wildcat… He has now scored in double figures in 68 career games, including 30 of 31 this season.
- Nowell scored a team-tying 24 points (all in the second half) on 7-of-20 field goals, including 6-of-12 from 3-point range, to go with game-highs in both assists (8) and steals (6) in nearly 39 minutes… It was his 30th career 20-point game, including his 14th at K-State and team-leading 11th this season… He has now scored in double figures in 94 career games, including 47 in his K-State career and 28 this season.
- Nowell’s 24 points tied for the ninth-most by a Wildcat in a second half in school history and the most since Barry Brown Jr. went for 26 points vs. Oklahoma State on Jan. 10, 2018.
- Nowell’s 6 made 3-pointers tied a season-high and were the most by him in a Big 12 game.
- Nowell’s 6 steals were one shy of his career-high of 7 vs. West Virginia (12/31/22).
- Sophomore Cam Carter scored 13 points on 5-of-12 field goals and 2-of-2 free throws to go with 5 assists and a steal in 30 minutes… He has now scored in double figures in 9 career games, including 7 times this season… His 5 assists were a season high.
- Senior Desi Sills did not travel with the team due to a family funeral.
K-State has clinched a bye to the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship and will begin play on Thursday, March 9 at 8:30 p.m., CT, as the No. 3 seed against No. 6 seed and No. 22/22 TCU (20-11, 9-9 Big 12). The tournament begins Wednesday, March 8 with two first-round games.