MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sagaba Konate exploited his low-post touches, the bench delivered a wave of reinforcements, and No. 15 West Virginia rediscovered its defensive identity by choking out Kansas State 89-51 on Saturday.
Scoring 19 points on only nine shots, Konate’s offensive game outsparkled his shot-blocking, and the Mountaineers showed some their old familiar fire to snap a three-game skid.
“We want that feeling back,” said guard Beetle Bolden, whose first career start resulted in 13 points on 3-of-4 shooting from 3.
The Mountaineers (17-6, 6-4) forced 15 turnovers, limited K-State to a season-worst 29-percent shooting, and punctuated their wire-to-wire victory with second-half runs of 14-2 and 14-3.
It resulted in the Wildcats’ worst loss since 2003.
“Snowball was going downhill and we couldn’t stop it,” said coach Bruce Weber.
WVU freshman Teddy Allen added 12 points off the bench, his first double-digit output since Jan. 6, and Wes Harris scored 10. Point guard Jevon Carter dished out 11 assists to mitigate his own 2-of-8 shooting.
The aftermath became sweeter for the Mountaineers upon hearing that Big 12 leader Kansas had lost at home to Oklahoma State.
“What are we one game back?,” Allen asked rhetorically. “For all our stuff, losing five out of six, we’re still right there.”
Dean Wade scored 17 points for Kansas State (16-7, 5-5) and Xavier Sneed added 16 points, while making 5 of 10 from 3. His teammates were 4-of-16 from deep.
Barry Brown, the Big 12’s second-leading scorer at 17 points per game, exemplified the frustration. He scored his only point on a second-half free throw and struggled to find shots in an 0-of-3 performance.
Brown had suffered a career-worst seven turnovers when the teams met on New Year’s Day in Manhattan and committed six more in the rematch. Whistled for a second-half technical after committing a pushoff foul, he went to the bench and punched a Gatorade cooler.
“He turned it over a few times and got a little frustrated,” Weber said. “It looked like every ballscreen they trapped him and made him give it up. Obviously he didn’t deal with it very well.”
Konate grabbed nine rebounds, part of West Virginia’s 36-24 edge. He made 7-of-9 from the floor, including an and-one basket after splitting a double-team on the low post.
“If I play good defense I feel my offense will follow,” said the sophomore center.
Konate also made all five free throws to climb above 70 percent this season.
“He’s got really good footwork,” Huggins said. “I think he scored it every time we threw it to him. We just don’t throw it to him enough. We really need to throw it to him more.”
Despite Huggins’ concerns over flu sweeping through his team this week, every player dressed and 12 saw action as WVU won for the fourth consecutive time in the series.
After starting 8-of-11 from the floor, K-State missed nine straight shots before Levi Stockard’s putback cut WVU’s halftime lead to 39-30.
The Wildcats didn’t have much chance of rallying when they shot 22 percent in the second half.
Around the league
Oklahoma State 84, Kansas 79: Backup guard Kendall Smith scored 24 and the Cowboys (14-9, 4-6) pulled off a stunning upset at The Phog. Udoka Azubuike had 20 points for the No. 7 Jayhawks (18-5, 7-3), whose third home loss marks their most since the 1998-99 season.
Texas Tech 83, TCU 71: The No. 10 Red Raiders (19-4, 7-3) built a 24-point halftime edge while coasting to an easy win in Fort Worth.
Texas 79, Oklahoma 74: Tray Young shot 7-of-22 for 19 points — 11 below national-leading average — and had 14 assists as the No. 12 Sooners (16-6, 6-4) missed a chance to pull into a three-way tie atop the Big 12. Matt Coleman scored 22 for the Longhorns (15-8, 5-5).