West Virginia got double digit scoring outputs from three different players – Jonathan Holton, Jaysean Paige and Nathan Adrian – and put together a complete team effort to beat the Kansas State Wildcats for the second time this year, and move to 17-3 overall and 6-2 in the Big 12.
Adrian made his first start of the season, replacing injured freshman Esa Ahmad, and put together his highest scoring total in over a year with 10 points. The Morgantown, W.Va. native also added three rebounds and an assist, while being whistled for just two personal fouls in 21 minutes of action.
His big night was just what the doctor ordered for WVU, as the Mountaineers second leading scorer Devin Williams had another shaky outing. The junior forward scored just six points in 20 minutes on the floor, and was called for four fouls on the evening.
Despite that, West Virginia notched what turned out to be a comfortable win against a Kansas State team that took them to double overtime just a few weeks ago in Manhattan.
Junior guard Tarik Phillip, who was West Virginia’s hero down the stretch in last weekend’s road win over Texas Tech, said tonight was just another example of how deep this Mountaineer team is.
“I keep saying this, we’ve got a lot of guys on our team that can step up at any given time. You saw it today. Nate ended up playing very, very, very well. Any given night, we all come ready to play, so whoever decides to play well that night we just run with,”
Phillip brought his usual intensity to this game, and was hit with a technical foul in the early going after making a lay-up. Head coach Bob Huggins, who appeared to be standing up for his player, picked up a technical of his own in protest of the call.
With ample time to cool off after the call, and a victory to soothe his memory of the incident, Phillip said he understood where the referees were coming from.
“They’re just trying to control our emotions so they can focus on controlling the game I guess. That’s just part of the game,” he said.
Phillip is known for bringing energy and effort on every possession, but even he said afterward that the intensity Jonathan Holton plays with permeates throughout the roster every game.
“That’s the head of the press, man. He gets us going. Without Jon on that ball, we don’t really have much pressure on the ball. He provides unbelievable energy for us, and we just feed off of that,” he said.
The head of the press helped West Virginia turn Kansas State over 19 times tonight, and also added 14 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season.
After a lackluster effort in a loss to Texas during their last home game, Phillip said the Mountaineers came into this game knowing they had to turn things around in the effort department to get a win tonight.
“I didn’t feel like we competed very hard in the Texas loss. Today, we forced a lot of turnovers like we usually do. I feel like we got back to our usual selves,” he said.
Now comes a break in the conference action, as West Virginia will travel to take on the Florida Gators Saturday as part of the Big12/SEC Challenge. Phillip said despite the Gators being a non-conference opponent, the Mountaineers will treat this game no differently.
“I feel like it’s just another game. Florida is a very good team. They’ve probably got a good coach over there. They’ve got good players, obviously, because they play in a tough league as well. We’ve just got to go out there and play with extreme intensity,” he said.