It was a precarious start for the 19th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers in the “Octagon of Doom” against the Wildcats. West Virginia turned the ball over on its first two possessions before freshman Esa Ahmad sunk a jumper for the Mountaineers’ first points of the day. Kansas State’s half-court defense was nothing short of suffocating in the early going.
While West Virginia’s ability to turn opponents over has gotten a lot of press this year, head coach Bob Huggins has repeatedly expressed concern over how much his team gives it away as well. At the first media timeout, West Virginia had already turned the ball over three times, leading to four K-State points and an early 8-6 Wildcat lead.
The two teams continued to go back and forth over the next four minutes, but West Virginia began to assert its dominance on the glass, grabbing four offensive rebounds that led to four second chance points through the game’s first eight minutes. Hot shooting by the Wildcats allowed them to keep their lead at 13-12 with 11:59 to play in the first half, however.
Kansas State remained cool in the face of West Virginia’s press, and hot in the shooting department past the mid-way point of the first half. The Wildcats shot 69-percent from the floor in the early going to push their lead out to 22-15 with 7:59 left in the first period.
The Wildcats regressed to the mean a little bit in terms of shooting percentage over the next four minutes and change, which allowed West Virginia to go on a 14-4 run and turn what had grown to a nine-point deficit into a 29-28 lead with 3:01 left in the half.
Forward Devin Williams, who has been the lifeblood of West Virginia’s offense this season, was held without a point in the first half. Despite that, the Mountaineers found themselves trailing by just a point, 34-33, heading into the break. Williams’ partner in the post, Elijah Macon, picked up the slack with seven first half points, and also chipped in two rebounds and a blocked shots through the game’s first 20 minutes.
Kansas State’s leading scorer, guard Wesley Iwundu, was quiet with just four first half points. That changed early in the second half, as he scored eight points in the first eight minutes of the second period to help Kansas State to a 49-47 lead with 11:45 to play.
The Wildcats continued to give West Virginia a taste of its own medicine, taking advantage of the Mountaineers’ looseness with the ball to take a 59-53 lead at the under-8 media timeout. At that point, West Virginia had turned it over 14 times, compared to K-State’s nine.
Bob Huggins made a defensive change, switching to a 1-3-1 zone that bothered the Wildcats’ offense and allowed WVU to claw back into a 63-63 tie with 3:38 to play. Kansas State went through a 2-for-10 shooting drought after the switch.
Daxter Miles came close to making a game-breaking error when he hung on the rim after a dead ball, which resulted in him being called for a technical foul. Kansas State missed the resulting free throw, however, and after both teams traded empty possessions in the final minute, the Mountaineers and Wildcats headed for overtime tied 69-69.
The back-and-forth continued in the extra five-minute period, as West Virginia and Kansas State were tied 75-75 with 4.1 seconds left. West Virginia had a chance to get a go-ahead bucket on the previous possession, but never got a look at the basket and Tarik Phillip threw the ball out of bounds as the shot clock expired.
After what seemed like a five-minute review by officials, it was determined the ball was tipped on the way out, the clock was reset to 4.6 seconds and West Virginia had one second on the shot clock to get something toward the rim.
Jevon Carter got a shot off from the corner, but it was no good, and when the ball rolled toward center court the clock ran out before Kansas State could get a shot of its own off, sending the game to double overtime tied at 75.
With the game tied at 83 and just over a minute to play in the second overtime, Tarik Phillip hit a clutch jumper to give West Virginia a two-point lead. The Mountaineers got a stop on the other end, and took over possession with an 85-83 advantage with 5.4 seconds left. Jonathan Holton made a critical block on a backdoor cut by Wesley Iwundu, who was denied at the rim.
Jevon Carter secured the inbound pass and was promptly fouled with 4.1 seconds left. Carter coolly hit both free throws, and West Virginia left Bramlage Coliseum with an 87-83 win and a 1-0 start in Big 12 play.
Jaysean Paige was the Mountaineers saving grace in this game, scoring a career-high 25 points off the bench. He also grabbed four critical offensive rebounds, and was instrumental in pushing WVU’s record to 12-1 on the year.