West Virginia’s 65-59 victory over Kansas State may have been one of those unwatchable, what’s-wrong-with-college hoops kind of games.
The contest was going to be slow because that’s how the Wildcats prefer to play, and it was going to be ugly because West Virginia leads the nation in turnover margin.
But to Kansas State fans, the game was brutal because the Wildcats were helpless against the West Virginia press, and on a night when points were precious, they were lousy at the free-throw line.
K-State rarely made the Mountaineers pay for their full court, trapping pressure by attacking. In the first half, the Wildcats twice were whistled for five-second violations and once for a 10-second call.
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They were part of K-State’s season-high 25 turnovers. That’s seven more mistakes than field goals for the Wildcats.
West Virginia’s pressure comes at a cost: The aggressiveness sends opponents to the line. But Kansas State, a 68-percent free-throw shooting team, went 20 of 35 (57.1 percent).
And with Mark Whitehead’s whistle-happy officiating crew, which called a technical foul 13 seconds into the game, the teams were going to shoot free throws. The game lasted nearly 2 1/2 hours.
The loss is a blown opportunity for the Wildcats, who need to take advantage of every opportunity to improve its resume. A triumph over the No. 17 Mountaineers would have been the third over a ranked team and stood behind only a victory at Oklahoma as the team’s most impressive this season.
Instead, K-State goes into its toughest task of the season — at Kansas on Saturday — having lost two of three.
Also a concern: Nino Williams’ health. The team’s hottest player appeared to injure his left knee on a drive early in the game and missed the final 30 minutes. The Wildcats needed his game, and much better reaction against the pressure, especially on inbounds plays.
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.