54 fouls, 37 combined turnovers and nearly two and a half hours long. It was a game only a masochist could enjoy watching, but nonetheless West Virginia (20-5, 8-4 Big 12) persevered and beat Kansas State (16-9, 5-7 Big 12) in front of a sellout crowd at the Coliseum.
Kansas State took control of the first few minutes of Saturday afternoon's contest and the Wildcats jumped out to a 14-6 lead after the Mountaineers got off to an ice cold 1-of-7 start from the field. But West Virginia's slow start was quickly cured by freshman point guard Beetle Bolden, who for the second contest in a row entered the game and gave the Mountaineers a huge spark offensively.
Bolden, who received a standing ovation upon entering the contest, hit a three-pointer just seconds into his action and scored five quick points. That seemed to send a jolt through the coliseum and among West Virginia's roster as well and it signaled the beginning of a dominating stretch of basketball for the Mountaineers. The Mountaineers clamped down on the defensive end and kept Kansas State from scoring a single field goal throughout the next eight minutes of play and as a result West Virginia went on a 17-1 run.
That run gave the Mountaineers a 23-15 lead but it was far from a knockout punch. The Wildcats took advantage of a sloppy sequence of basketball by the Mountaineers and a quick whistle by the officials and clawed their way back into the game. A late 9-0 run even put the WIldcats up 30-27 but the Mountaineers were able to tie the game at 34 apiece going into the lockerroom. The halftime score was somewhat disappointing considering the Mountaineers had dominated for a large stretch of the game, but the officials whistled the Mountaineers for 15 fouls and gave the Wildcats a number of free throws as a result.
Early in the second half it appeared as if head coach Bob Huggins had enough of the officiating himself and was issued a technical foul for arguing against a potential missed traveling call; the T was Huggins' second in as many home games and it brought the crowd to life. That in turn gave the Mountaineers some added energy and West Virginia quickly went on a 12-1 run to take a 48-40 lead with 14 minutes left in the contest. Just minutes later the Mountaineers went on another quick run, this time a 7-0 burst, and extended their lead to 57-44.
That final burst proved to be enough to propel the Mountaineers past the Wildcats and West Virginia fought through a number of fouls to hold on to a double digit lead for the remainder of the game. West Virginia used a number of buckets by Jevon Carter and some thunderous dunks by Esa Ahmad and Elijah Macon to extend the lead and put at explanation mark on the victory. At the end of the day the lead got all the way out to 22 points and West Virginia earned an 85-66 victory.
One statistic that stands out is the 47-26 redounding edge that was partially aided by the absence of Wildcat center DJ Johnson. For the Mountaineers Carter led all scorers in the game with 19 and added nine rebounds and a pair of steals as well. After the contest Carter admitted that revenge was on West Virginia's mind.
"Definitely," responded Carter when asked whether or not revenge was a factor in the win. "That's what the Big 12 is all about. You get to play everybody twice; once at their place and once at ours, so if you lose you get a chance at redemption."
The win is number 20 on the year for West Virginia and the Mountaineers will have a quick turnaround before traveling to Lawrence to take on Kansas on Monday. If West Virginia hopes to have any shot of winning the Big 12 they must beat the Jayhawks, who are 9-2 in conference play.