MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Playing double-digit minutes for only the fifth time this season, Brandon Watkins emerged as West Virginia’s most effective scorer and grabbed a game-best nine rebounds.
Then he most impressed his coach by diving near the sideline for a loose-ball steal.
“He was terrific,” said Bob Huggins, appreciating a boost the Mountaineers sorely needed to defeat Kansas State 76-72.
The 6-foot-9 sophomore—who was unavailable for postgame interviews while receiving treatment for a leg injury—scored a career-high 14 points in 17 minutes. (That production looked crucial when Devin Williams, Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon generated seven points in 42 minutes.)
Watkins’ 6-of-8 shooting represented two more baskets than he produced in the previous nine games combined.
“If our other bigs had played with that kind of energy and passion, it wouldn’t have been a game,” Huggins said. “Good thing he did. He was by far the player of the game.”
And one Kansas State hardly prioritized on its scouting report, considering Watkins came in averaging 1.8 points and 7.1 minutes.
“You sit on the bench long enough, you decide you want to get in and play,” reasoned Huggins.
Teammate Gary Browne suggested that Watkins—a frequent recipient of Huggins’ sideline chewings—had been hindered by his own uncertainty.
“The people might be surprised by what he did, but it was great to see him out there just playing basketball,” Browne said. “He was fantastic today.”