The final score was 71-61 in favor of the Kansas State Wildcats over the West Virginia Mountaineers but it really wasn’t that close Monday night. Kansas State controlled the opening tip and led the rest of the game. The final margin was the closest the Mountaineers had been since early in the game.
Five Wildcats scored in double digits, led by Will Spradling with 19, Nino Williams added 13, Angel Rodriguez and Thomas Gipson each chipped in 11, and Rodney McGruder tallied 10. Rodriguez also contributed 7 assists but turned the ball over 6 times. Deniz Kilicli topped the Mountaineers with 16.
It was an incredibly sloppy game. The two teams combined for 29 turnovers, 49 fouls, and 53 free throws, as players failed to adjust to the tight officiating. It was not a pleasant return to Bramlage Coliseum for former Wildcat coach and current Mountaineer head man, Bob Huggins. Not only did his team shoot just 30% from the field (17-42) but he was whistled for a technical foul in the second half when Kilicli was knocked to the floor after a missed shot. Huggins stormed out onto the court to berate Joe DeRosa for the missed call but the official did not hesitate in giving Huggins the technical. Assistant coaches had to herd the furious Huggins back to the bench, much to the delight of the Wildcat fans.
The victory was a big one for Kansas State. They entered the game locked in a three-way tie with the Kansas Jayhawks and the Oklahoma State Cowboys for first place in the Big 12 Conference. KU and OSU play in Stillwater on Wednesday, so the Wildcats know they will only share first with only one of those teams by Thursday. K-State only has 5 conference games left, including a meeting at Texas on Saturday.
The game Monday night was an ugly affair but the Wildcats never got off kilter. They kept the Mountaineers at arm’s length the entire contest and were never threatened or pressured by West Virginia. It was a workmanlike performance that highlighted this team’s toughness and maturity, two things necessary for Kansas State if they want to hold on to the conference lead and to make a deep run in March.