MANHATTAN, Kan. — The Bramlage Coliseum was cannonball noisy, Wabash Cannonball-noisy to be precise, and West Virginia did nothing to quiet the rumble and the roar.
No. 13 Kansas State steamrolled the Mountaineers 71-61, leading by as many 21 points and dropping WVU to 1-11 against teams with winning records.
Only a 10-0 run by West Virginia over the final 3:26 — after K-State coach Bruce Weber removed his starters — made the final score respectable.
“We give ‘em what, five layups in half-court defense in the first half and probably another three or four in the second half?” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “So you’re talking 16 to 20 points on point-blank layups that eighth graders can make. How do you get those kind of shots against a half-court defense?”
“We have breakdowns and when you’re not any good, you can’t have breakdowns.”
The Wildcats (21-5, 10-3) led 58-40 with 9:24 to go when Eron Harris fouled out with zero points and only two shots. Harris knocked down Will Spradling on a screen away for the ball for his fourth foul, and officials immediately added a technical for Harris’ fifth foul claiming the blow was extra bruising.
“Spradling, that’s how he plays — he flops most of the time,” said WVU’s Deniz Kilicli. “He gets under bigs and he does a good job. I’m not saying this as a negative because he makes those plays and Eron’s a freshman. Hopefully it will be a learning experience.”
Spradling, whose 19 points topped five K-State players in double figures, made both ends of the one-and-one and the two technical free throws.
There was no mention of WVU coach Bob Huggins during the pregame introductions, per Big 12 policy. But Huggins earned himself an ovation with 16:25 left in the game, slapped with a technical after feeling Kilicli was hit on a close-in shot that went out of bounds to K-State.
Spradling, 7-of-7 from the line, made both free throws from the Huggins technical to give the Wildcats a 43-22 margin.
Kansas State sunk three quick 3-pointers and made 8 of its first 12 shots overall. By halftime, the Wildcats had cooled off to 50-percent shooting but enjoyed a 33-20 cushion. K-State, which led 33-15 after a Spradling’s wide-open 3 from the top of the key, had 10 assists on its 11 first-half baskets.
“We don’t have the luxury to give people layups, dunks and wide-open 3s because we can’t make plays on the offensive end,” said Kilicli. “We are limited offensively.”
Exacerbating the first-half woes for WVU (13-13, 6-7), Harris was scoreless in three minutes after picking up his second foul trying to stop Angel Hernandez on a fast break. Kilicli picked up his second down low after seven minutes, leading to an old-school 3-point play by Thomas Gipson.
Kilicli scored 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting but grimmaced after a second-half scrum when an official blew the whistle near his ear. It was a sound the players heard frequently thanks to 49 combined fouls.
The Mountaineers were 7-of-23 from the floor (30 percent) and 1-of-8 from 3-point land in the opening half, when its starters produced only seven points.
Kansas State shot 50 percent from the floor compared the Mountaineers 40 percent.
Reserve Nino Williams scored 13 points and Thomas Gipson and Angel Hernandez scored 11 each for the Wildcats, who temporarily took a half-game lead on conference co-leaders Kansas and Oklahoma State.
K-State’s All-American candidate Rodney McGruder scored 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Shane Southwell, who had 17 points in the first game against WVU, made his lone shot — a 3-pointer.
“I think (being balanced) is probably the best thing about our team,” said Wildcats coach Bruce Weber. “Every game, it is somebody else. Angel, Jordan and Shane had big games the other night. Rodney (McGruder) had good numbers, but not great numbers. Tonight it was Will and Nino stepping up.
“We had five guys in double figures, so I think that is what our team is about. If you take Rodney away, there are still some other people who can make some plays.”
SHOOTING DOWN WVU
Just like Phil Forte (26 points) and Brady Heslip (20 points) before him, Spradling found himself open on the perimeter too often for Huggins’ liking.
“We did a terrible job guarding him. You give him open shots, he’s going to make ‘em,” the coach said.
Spradling was 5-of-9 overall and 2-of-4 from 3-point range, scoring 11 points more than his season average.
“If we’re guarding the shooter and all he does is shoot, then you shouldn’t be the one giving the most help,” said West Virginia point guard Juwan Staten.
“I think we’re kind of backward. When it’s a guy that can’t really shoot, I feel like we’re hugging him. But then when we’ve got a guy who can shoot, that (defender) is the one giving the most help. I don’t really know the reason for that. It’s just something we’ve got to watch on film and try to fix.”
QUIET ON THE HUGGINS FRONT
Thanks to a Big 12 policy precluding teams from introducing head coaches along with the starting lineups, the pregame reception for Huggins was anticlimactic, especially in light of the buildup for his return to the Little Apple after leaving six seasons ago.
“I like this place — the people have been wonderful,” Huggins said after the game. “It’s always nice to see people you haven’t seen in a while, but at the end of the day, it’s a business trip. We’re supposed to win. We didn’t.”
Mountaineers center Aaric Murray just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. He was 0-of-3 from 3-point range but also had several misses from point-blank range to finish 4-of-12 overall.
Staten played turnover-free ball for 20 minutes, finishing with eight points and eight assists. The sophomore also made three steals.
The sophomore Williams, who entered the night averaging 4.5 points, had 13 for K-State — his highest output in 12 games.
“Coach Weber just told me and some of the guys who were not playing that much in conference play to just keep a good attitude and keep our heads up because we are going to get an opportunity,” Williams said. “You do not know when, but it is going to come. I just kept a good attitude and Shane (Southwell) got into foul trouble, so I got my opportunity and I just tried to play hard and do the little things.”