MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No. 21 West Virginia squandered a late 10-point lead before regaining its poise in the final minutes for a 76-72 win over Kansas State on Wednesday night.
Reserve forward Brandon Watkins scored a career-high 14 points and point guard Juwan Staten added 11 despite missing four late free throws for West Virginia (19-5, 7-4 Big 12), which swept the season series.
Forward Nino Williams scored 22 points for Kansas State (12-13, 5-7), which dropped its fifth straight despite taking the lead in the final three minutes with a clutch comeback.
Trailing 67-57 with 5:27 left, Kansas State rallied with a 12-0 run to pull ahead. After West Virginia forward Nate Adrian’s free throws tied it, forward Devin Williams put the Mountaineers ahead on a spinning jumper with 1:51 remaining.
After K-State guard Nigel Johnson missed two free throws and a chance to tie, guard Gary Browne’s foul shot put the Mountaineers up 72-69 with 37 seconds to go.
Guards Jaysean Paige and Jevon Carter contributed 10 points each for the Mountaineers, who aided the Wildcats’ rally with several silly turnovers. That included an inbounds pass by Carter that hit teammate Daxter Miles in the back of the head and was converted into a one-on-three layup by Johnson.
Forward Thomas Gipson and guard Justin Edwards scored 14 points each for the Wildcats, who lost despite shooting 57 percent from the field.
West Virginia, the second-worst shooting team in the Big 12, enjoyed a torrid start by making its first seven shots from the field. That contributed to 62 percent first-half shooting and a 46-35 lead.
The Mountaineers also had a 26-2 edge in bench scoring.
Ten players scored in the opening half for the Mountaineers, including Watkins, who surpassed his season high with eight points in his first eight minutes of action.
During one chaotic sequence, Watkins dunked after collecting a loose ball off his own missed free throw. He added a breakaway dunk moments later, part of an 11-2 run that built the lead to 46-33.
Kansas State committed three turnovers during that span, leading to four runouts.
NOTES: Kansas State played its third consecutive game without suspended leading scorer Marcus Foster (14 points per game) and reserve Malek Harris. … With West Virginia F Jonathan Holton shooting only 17 percent from 3-point range (8 of 46), he has been receiving advice from coaches and even family members. “He knows mechanically what his problem is,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “He told me his sister called him and told him — even she knew. That’s how bad it was. Either it’s painfully obvious or she’s a very astute basketball person.” … The Wildcats averaged the fewest possessions per game in the Big 12 and West Virginia averaged the most.
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