KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Only two weeks after Kansas State absorbed a 30-point beating at Oklahoma, coach Bruce Weber no longer appears destined for unemployment.
Three victories restored morale and the sixth-seeded Wildcats were giddy after beating No. 9-ranked Baylor 70-64 in the Big 12 quarterfinals Thursday night, an upset that likely sealed the program’s first NCAA bid since 2014.
Now comes a semifinal showdown against No. 11 West Virginia and the chance to keep surging in front of what will be a pro-Wildcats crowd at Sprint Center.
“You got another top-10 team that we beat once and they hammered us the second time,” Weber said. “I told the players we came here to win the championship not to just win one game.”
Not so long ago, Weber endured awkward exchanges with reporters and fans called for his dismissal. Guard Barry Brown, coming off his 21-point game against Baylor, said players tightened their circle and adopted a now-or-never attitude.
“We knew what people were saying, and we didn’t want to see the things happen that people were saying outside of this basketball family,” Brown said. “We stuck together. We played for Coach, played for one another and were able to rattle off three wins.”
In splitting two regular-season games, K-State did something against second-seeded West Virginia no one else could: Dominate the turnover margin. (Weber’s team committed 29 while forcing the Mountaineers into 41.)
Fouls also became a huge storyline, with West Virginia whistled for 30 in each game — 10 above its season average.
Kansas State won 79-75 in Manhattan and lost 85-66 in Morgantown without forward DJ Johnson (11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds). The 6-foot-9 senior looks healthy now, having made 12 of his last 15 shots.
“We had a resume win over Baylor and hopefully we get another one Friday,” Johnson said.
West Virginia held Texas to its second-lowest output of the season in a 63-53 win Thursday, though forward Nathan Adrian wasn’t impressed with his team’s defense.
“We allowed too many straight-line drives,” he said. “We’ve just got to fix some things and hopefully play better tomorrow.”
West Virginia (25-7) vs. Kansas State (20-12)
Tipoff: Friday, 9:15 p.m. Eastern in Kansas City (ESPN2)
Gotta be the shoes: For Thursday’s game at the Big 12 tournament, West Virginia debuted white Nike sneakers with a gold swoosh, a rare occasion in which the players agreed to wear matching shoes. That forced Tarik Phillip to shelve his lime-green sneakers, though not for long.
“They’re coming back next game,” he said. “They’ll be back tomorrow night, don’t worry.”
RPIs: West Virginia 26, Kansas State 55
Line: West Virginia favored by 7
Prediction: West Virginia 72-69