The excitement and momentum Kansas State captured while winning four straight games last month evaporated during an 89-51 loss against West Virginia on Saturday at WVU Coliseum.
It was K-State’s most lopsided loss since Bruce Weber took over as coach in 2012. That’s how ugly this defeat was for the Wildcats.
The Mountaineers (17-6, 6-4 Big 12) dominated from the start and sent the Wildcats (16-7, 5-5) home with much to think about.
Not long ago, K-State was in second place of the conference standings and junior guard Barry Brown was talking about winning a league championship. Now it is in the middle of the pack wondering how to bounce back from back-to-back losses.
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With Texas and No. 10 Texas Tech up next, the Wildcats face a difficult challenge.
They will need all hands on deck to right the ship, or at least more than they had against the Mountaineers. Dean Wade and Xavier Sneed were the only K-State players that showed up.
Wade continued his hot scoring streak with 17 points and Sneed busted out of his recent slump with 16 points. The rest of the team barely altered the stat sheet.
It was odd. On the day point guard Kamau Stokes returned after missing a month of action with a broken left foot, Brown and Cartier Diarra vanished.
Brown had his worst game of the season, scoring a single point and taking just three shots. Something has changed with him since he scored 34 points at Baylor two weeks ago. Back then, he was the Big 12’s second-leading scorer, behind only Oklahoma phenom Trae Young. Now, he has gone three straight games of low production, scoring 19 points total.
Frustration boiled over for him in the second half when he was called for a foul in the backcourt and then picked up a technical foul for complaining about it.
Are defenses putting more pressure on him? Or is he not playing at the same level?
Those are the main questions K-State will have to answer before it next plays at Texas on Wednesday.
Stokes had two points and four assists in his return, playing 10 minutes. Like many others, he had little impact on the game.
West Virginia led 39-30 at the half, and the Wildcats were fortunate to be as close as they were.
Brown was held scoreless on two attempts and the Wildcats went more than 10 minutes between field goals. Wade made a long jumper at the 10:21 mark, and Levi Stockard made a put-back layup as time expired. In between, managed only seven points coming exclusively at the free-throw line.
Worst of all, West Virginia didn’t even need its all-out pressure defense to stymie K-State. The Wildcats lost 10 turnovers with most of them coming on sloppy plays and bad decisions.
Sneed (10) points and Wade (9) were the only K-State players that looked sharp.
Diarra played five minutes with foul trouble, Stokes saw six minutes and in an odd twist Mike McGuirl led all point guards in the first half with 11 minutes.
K-State needed much more in this game, and it showed in the second half. West Virginia shrugged off a recent stretch of bad play – five losses in six games – to win easily on its home floor.
Sagaba Konate led all scorers with 19 points and James Bolden added 13, but it seemed like everyone on the WVU roster contributed.
Unlike their hot play in January suggested, the Wildcats were no match.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett