KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In the first round of the Big 12 Conference Tournament, West Virginia rallied late in the second half to break away from Kansas State, 73-67. WVU advances to the second round of the tournament and will play No. 1-seed Kansas on Thursday.
West Virginia (16-16, 4-14 Big 12) has won two games in-a-row for the first time since Jan. 8-11.
After a back-and-forth second half, Kansas State (14-17, 6-12 Big 12) was leading 61-60 over West Virginia. From there, the Mountaineers went on a 8-0 run to take a nine-point lead with just three minutes to go. Taz Sherman and Malik Curry hit back-to-back three’s and the run was finished off by a Sean McNeil layup.
McNeil gave the Mountaineers great offensive production in the beginning stages of the game, hitting 3-three’s in the first six minutes. McNeil seemed to have gained his confidence back that he has been missing for the last few weeks. McNeil was feeling it and couldn’t be stopped, finishing with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Kansas State gave WVU problems all night from three, making 11-three’s from beyond the arc. Markquis Nowell capped off an 8-0 run to tie the game up at 55 with nine minutes left. The Kansas City crowd, which was majority Wildcat supporters, went crazy after Nowell’s three. Nijel Pack and Ismael Massoud also connected on multiple three’s for Kansas State.
Even when Kansas State wasn’t making their three’s, they were going to the line to shoot three free-throws. West Virginia just could not stop fouling a three-point shot, doing so three times.
One glaring factor in West Virginia’s effort on Wednesday was how well their bench stepped up. Malik Curry, Dimon Carrigan and Pauly Paulicap specifically played very well. As of late, Curry has found some consistency within West Virginia’s offense.
Carrigan and Paulicap came into the game mid-way through the first half and gave West Virginia the needed offense in the paint that they’ve needed all season. WVU scored 32 points in the paint against the Wildcats.
Sherman was quiet for the majority of the first half, only scoring two points. West Virginia has relied on their most consistent scorer throughout the season and once McNeil finds his confidence, that’s when Sherman goes incognito. The fifth-year senior ended the first round with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Notable scorers for West Virginia were McNeil (21), Curry (17) and Sherman (9).
West Virginia will advance to the next round of the Big 12 Conference Tournament, with a date against No. 1 seed Kansas on Thursday at 3 p.m.