Kansas State’s Shane Southwell hit the go-ahead free throws with 21.4 seconds left and blocked Gary Browne’s driving jumper at the buzzer, preserving the No. 18 Wildcats’ 65-64 win Saturday.
Rodney McGruder and Southwell topped K-State (13-2, 2-0 Big 12) with 17 points each, while Jabarie Hinds scored a career-high 15 to lead the Mountaineers (8-7, 1-2), who lost their second consecutive game at home despite shooting 51 percent.
Box score: Kansas State 65, West Virginia 64
Trailing 36-33, West Virginia opened the second half with an 8-0 run before K-State countered with a 12-0 spurt (of which McGruder scored seven) to lead 48-41 with 14:29 to play.
Those were the final points for the All-Big 12 player McGruder, who missed his last six shots to finish 7-of-16. But after WVU rallied to tie the game at 50, Southwell — who came in averaging 6.3 points per game — scored seven points in the final 10:11.
“I thought in the second half Rodney got tried and missed a couple shots,” said Wildcats coach Bruce Weber. “You have to other people make plays.”
No play was larger than Southwell getting tripped by Dominique Rutledge 20 feet from the hoop with 21.4 seconds left and WVU leading 64-63. As the 69-percent foul shooter went to the line, McGruder said he steered clear of Southwell “hoping to avoid putting any more pressure” on the junior guard.
“It didn’t matter,” Southwell said, “because Rodney couldn’t have put anymore pressure on me than those West Virginia fans were. It was loud as hell.”
After Southwell made both free throws — the type of end-game scenario he said he “had dreamed about as a kid” — Hinds put up a contested 12-footer that caromed out of bounds off K-State with 9.1 seconds left. After dual timeouts by Bob Huggins and Weber, the Mountaineers hoped to find Hinds at the top of the key off a double screen, but K-State’s Angel Rodriguez deflected the inbounds pass, which rolled into the backcourt. Browne tracked it down some 60 feet from the basket and raced downcourt in desperation.
“After the deflection, it was like a jailbreak,” said Southwell, who waited in the lane for Browne and swatted away a hurried 8-foot runner as time expired.
Then Southwell flexed and screamed in front of the WVU student section, something the forward said “he had to get out” after hearing from a couple fans the whole game.
Huggins described WVU’s last-chance play as one Da’Sean Butler converted into five game-winning shots. “I just know we didn’t get it,” the coach said.
Aaric Murray had 11 points and five rebounds for the Mountaineers, while Terry Henderson recovered from an atrocious game at Texas to score 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
K-State’s Jordan Henriquez fouled out but not before coming off the bench to contribute nine points and seven rebounds, helping the Wildcats to a 28-27 edge on the boards.
West Virginia point guard and second-leading scorer Juwan Staten sat on the bench throughout Saturday’s game, never removing his warmups. Apparently whatever led to his second-half benching at Texas in Wednesday’s 57-53 win hasn’t been resolved.
Said Huggins: “He has to get on the same page as me or he is not going to play anymore.”
Huggins wanted his defense to settle into a 1-3-1 and wasn’t sure what transpired on Rutledge’s late-game foul that sent Southwell to the line for the decisive free throws.
“It’s a matter of how the ball bounces, you know,” Rutledge said. “I feel like I hedged good enough, but I had to recover and get back to my man before he slipped (to the basket).”
WVU’s Eron Harris, who was just a step away when the foul occurred, suggested Southwell tripped on his own — an assertion that left the K-State forward laughing.
“I definitely got fouled,” he said. “I’d be the first to admit if the call was shaky, but I clearly got tripped.”
Harris’ off-balance, double-clutch baseline jumper had staked the Mountaineers to a 64-63 lead with 25 seconds left, only to be wiped away by Rutledge’s foul.
“It was a lucky shot, and I was like ‘Thank you, God,'” Harris said. “But then we go back and make a dumb foul and they go back up by one, so it didn’t even matter.
“It gives us confidence we can beat ranked teams, but we just need to be consistent like those ranked teams are. All it came down to was a stupid foul at the end.”
FREE THROWS COSTLY
West Virginia entered the game shooting 71 percent from the foul line but made only 12-of-22. Hinds was only 1-of-6, an ironic stat on an afternoon in which he made 6-of-10 from the floor.
“We shoot 100 (in practice) and make 100 every day,” said forward Kevin Noreen. “I don’t know why — maybe we had a lack of focus today.”