Xavier Sneed was hot from three-point range and Dean Wade was effective at the rim. Together, they played well enough to give Kansas State a puncher’s chance against No. 6 West Virginia on Monday at Bramlage Coliseum.
But they didn’t get enough help from their teammates, and the Wildcats lost 77-69.
The easy thing to do after a defeat like this one is to point fingers at Kamau Stokes, who didn’t make a single shot on 10 attempts, and Barry Brown, who went 5 for 13 and lost seven turnovers, for not holding up their end of the scoring burden. Yet they didn’t actually have to put the ball through the basket to improve K-State’s odds.
Just look at Jevon Carter. The senior West Virginia guard scored measly three points on 1 of 7 shooting, but he filled up the stat sheet in other meaningful ways that were every bit as important to the Mountaineers as 22 points from leading scorer Teddy Allen.
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“They fought the game a little bit today instead of letting it come,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “I brought up Jevon Carter to our guys after. You know, he only had three points, but 10 assists, eight rebounds, three steals, and his team won. Every game is different. The other night it was easy we were making shots and flying around. Tonight, it wasn’t like that. You still have to fly around and help the team be successful.”
Weber said K-State should have done more to get Sneed and Wade involved. That might as well have been a message to Brown and Stokes.
Wade had 17 points and 10 rebounds. He was aggressive for the second straight game, and he had a hot hand. But he didn’t attempt a single three-pointer, which is normally his forte. Why? Brown seemed hesitant at times to pass Wade the ball out of double teams, and too often forced his own shot. Stokes also could have looked to pass more often, especially with him missing all seven of his three-point attempts.
Give him credit for finding Sneed a few times in the corner. Sneed made 6 of 9 outside shots on his way to 20 points and six rebounds. His corner threes all seemed to come at important times and keep the Wildcats within striking distance in a game the Mountaineers threatened to run away with.
But he could only do so much on 11 shots. K-State did a poor job of identifying its hot players and distributing the ball accordingly.
“I trust Barry and Kam with whatever shot they are taking. I have 100 percent trust in them,” Wade said. “Even if I am feeling hot, I still trust them with the shot. If they throw it back I am going to shoot it, obviously, but I trust all my teammates.”
Scoring never comes easy against West Virginia, and K-State found it exceptionally difficult on Monday.
The Wildcats had trouble scoring inside the three-point line (10 of 30) and outside (10 of 26). The Mountaineers overwhelmed K-State with their defensive pressure, forcing 15 turnovers and muddying things up like a football game.
K-State was coming off an aesthetically pleasing 91-75 victory at Iowa State in which open looks were abundant. This game was completely different, with both teams clawing for every point.
Weber hoped K-State (11-3, 1-1 Big 12) could build off its impressive win over the Cyclones with a victory over the No. 6 Mountaineers (13-1, 2-0), but it didn’t happen. This ranked right up there with a neutral-court game against No. 4 Arizona State as its toughest test of the year. Just like that game at the Las Vegas Invitational, the Wildcats fell short.
Their top players simply didn’t score up to their usual standards.
K-State usually depends on a combination of Brown, Stokes, Sneed and Wade to lead the way. In this game, only Sneed and Wade looked sharp.
A similar scenario unfolded on the other end of the court, with Allen scoring 22 points and Lamont West adding 19. Carter didn’t help them by scoring, but he got them the ball with passes and rebounds.
The Wildcats can learn from his play as they move forward in what promises to be a difficult Big 12.
Weber offered had some interesting things to say about what makes West Virginia and its full-court defense a difficult matchup.
“The sad part is that it is a game where you really cannot coach,” Weber said. “They take the coaching out of your hands. Those guys have to play fast, but you might put them in spots. One time, they trapped the ball and screened. One time, they run-and-jump you, then they switch a ball-screen. You have to keep making the next play and when you get in the paint you have to make that right pass.”
He went on to say he thought K-State played with good effort, but needed to make better decisions.
Where’s the beef?
This was a difficult game for K-State to try and win with its small lineup. Unlike Iowa State, West Virginia threw big players at the Wildcats the entire way and hammered them inside.
West Virginia outscored K-State 40-18 in the paint and 34-11 off the bench.
Those were huge factors in the game. Starting center Makol Mawien was once again ineffective, finishing with one point and one rebound in 11 minutes. Levi Stockard did some nice things off the bench, including six rebounds, but committed four fouls in 12 minutes. Mawdo Sallah, Nigel Shadd and James Love didn’t play.
The Wildcats will need to develop its big lineup to have any chance against West Virginia later this season.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett