MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – In the Big 12 home opener for West Virginia, the Mountaineers outlasted Kansas State, 71-68, upping their energy after getting off to a very slow start.
The Mountaineers (12-2, 1-1 Big 12) came out with zero energy. The same story seemingly every game. Out of the locker room, the team walked out and stood around on offense, mostly shooting threes. It did not look like WVU was going to be able to produce any energy unless it was from the WVU faithful.
Finally, after back-to-back layups from Keddy Johnson, the crowd got into it, and so did their Mountaineers. But it wasn’t until 16 minutes left in the second half that West Virginia showed any kind of determination. A Sean McNeil three made it a one-possession game, which got the coliseum rocking for the first time on Saturday.
Another three-pointer by McNeil with 8:35 remaining gave WVU their first lead of the game. The senior guard finished with a season high of 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting, connecting on four threes.
Kansas State (8-6, 0-3 Big 12) is a Big 12 school that’s slowly improving each year and with how good the conference is, any win in Big 12 play is a good win.
Kansas State came into this game with only eight players ready after a COVID-19 outbreak in their program caused half of the team to enter health and safety protocols. The Wildcats were also without head coach Bruce Weber, having assistant coach Jermaine Henderson taking over Weber’s duties. Henderson was with a graduate assistant all on his coaching staff.
Halfway through the second half, Malik Curry landed on a teammates foot. Curry laid on the ground holding his knee for a minute before being helped off the court and leaving the game with four points, two rebounds and two assists. The grad transfer guard shot 2-of-5 from the field and did not return to the game.
Kobe Johnson had a 5-0 run by himself to cut the Kansas State lead to eight points, with 4:24 left in the first half. Johnson made a layup, cutting into the paint, and then hitting a three-pointer on transition. The freshman guard checked into the game for five minutes, finishing with those five points, on 2-of-4 shooting.
West Virginia shot poorly from the free-throw line against Kansas State, until when it mattered. Keddy Johnson was able to help close out the game for West Virginia, hitting a pair of free-throws to make it a two possession game with 14 seconds. Jalen Bridges’ only points were from the line with four seconds left, giving West Virginia the 71-68 win. WVU shot 12-of-17 from the line.
Notable scorers for WVU were McNeil (26), Sherman (14) and Keddy Johnson (11).
Up next for West Virginia is Oklahoma State, on Tuesday night. The Mountaineers won’t have to do any traveling as the game is at the WVU Coliseum, with the tip starting at 9 p.m.