WVU frustrated despite win over K-State

If you listened to Gary Browne talk after West Virginia's 76-72 victory over Kansas State Wednesday night without watching the game, you would have thought the game had ended much differently than it did.

"It just sucks," the senior guard said. "We had this game by 12 ... we could have won by 20."

After dropping two games in a row in blowout fashion, the Mountaineers were finally able to get back to their winning ways, and beat a Kansas State team that is more than likely the worst team remaining on their schedule. But it was the way they won that had the team disappointed following the game.

West Virginia found itself in the driver's seat for the majority of the game - especially after a run at the end of the first half that extended its lead from three to 11 points in the blink of an eye. From there, it seemed like the Mountaineers had shifted into cruise control, keeping Kansas State a good distance away and sticking to a fairly comfortable lead that always hovered around double digits.

But then the run hit.

The Mountaineers had struggled defensively at times against the Wildcats for stretches earlier in the game, but a late 12-0 run that gave Kansas State the lead with less than three minutes to play took the wind out of West Virginia's sails and put the outcome of the game in doubt. Now, while WVU was able to bounce back and escape the Coliseum with a victory, it was a quick series of mental lapses that almost led to a loss against a team it should have been able to beat handily.

And it was the type of stretch in a close game that the Mountaineers won't be able to afford to have as it heads into the rest of the season. West Virginia takes on Iowa State and Kansas in a span of three days starting this weekend, and the margin for error in those games - as well as the rest of the games this season they will be playing against NCAA tournament-caliber competition - will be miniscule, especially compared to what it was Wednesday against a K-State team that seemed to struggle to get anything going for the first 30 minutes of the game.

This was a big win for West Virginia and one that it needed greatly after the way it had played against Oklahoma and Baylor. But it was also a game that, if the Mountaineers would not have been able to hang on, could have spelled doom for this group that seemed to be losing confidence more and more in each of those games.

There's no such thing as a bad win, and this is no exception. It gives WVU its 19th victory of the season and keeps the team in contention to have a nice finish in the Big 12 and puts them a step closer to getting back into the NCAA tournament. But it was a frustrating one to watch, one that was full of missed opportunities and a handful of disappointments. It was something to build on, and something that can serve as a warning sign for this young West Virginia team as it heads into a final stretch that will surely make or break this group.

Sure, they got to leave this one with a win. Next time, they might not be so lucky.

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