Manhattan, Kan. — West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has a play card packed with 75 offensive sets, yet he couldn’t seem to find anything that would work against Kansas State on Monday.
So Huggins told his guys to get the Wildcats to chase them in the hopes of opening up the lane.
Maybe that freelancing should be set No. 76.
Teddy Allen kept driving to the rim and scored 22 points, Lamont West added 19, and the sixth-ranked Mountaineers — so often the undersized team whenever they step on the floor — beat up pesky Kansas State in the paint in a 77-69 victory that pushed their winning streak to 13 games.
“When you can’t make a shot you have to do something,” Huggins said, “and we couldn’t make one.”
The Mountaineers (13-1, 2-0), who have not lost since their opener against Texas A&M in Germany, were 4 of 15 from beyond the arc. But they offset that poor perimeter shooting by outrebounding Kansas State (11-3, 1-1) and compiling a massive 40-18 advantage in points in the paint.
“They’re really good at making you shoot the ball over you. It’s kind of like playing Virginia, to a degree. You got 10 eyes on you all the time,” Huggins said. “We had to get close.”
West Virginia was clinging to a 65-61 lead down the stretch when Allen went to work, slicing down the lane and picking up fouls. He kept knocking down the free throws, scoring eight points in the closing minutes while helping the Mountaineers to their first win on New Year’s Day.
West Virginia had lost its previous four games on Jan. 1.
“We kept the game within a couple possessions for the most part, but at the end they kind of picked us apart,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “They just seemed to make all the right plays.”
Xavier Sneed scored 20 points and Dean Wade had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Kansas State, but the duo couldn’t compensate for miserable performances by Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes.
Brown finished with 14 points, but he was just 5 of 13 from the field and committed seven of the Wildcats’ 15 turnovers. Stokes was 0 for 10 from the field and had six points.
“They fought the game a little bit today, instead of letting it come,” Weber said.
The Mountaineers’ pressure defense caused several lengthy first-half droughts for Kansas State, and at one point West Virginia had built a 25-15 lead with just over three minutes to go.
It took little-used guard Brian Patrick, whose career-best night came against West Virginia last season, to get the Wildcats going. He entered just before the break and knocked down a 3-pointer, then fed Brown for another 3, closing the deficit to 31-26 heading to the locker room.
The Mountaineers kept the Wildcats at arm’s length most of the second half, relying on their tough defense, some ugly misfires and a few fortunate calls to maintain their advantage.
Kansas State trailed 65-55 with 5 1/2 minutes left when it made a final run. Wade got to the foul line, Brown followed him there and Sneed knocked down his sixth 3-pointer from right in front of his bench to claw the Wildcats within 65-61 at the under-4 media timeout.
Allen and the Mountaineers showed their poise down the stretch.
The freshman forward went to the foul line on three consecutive trips down the floor, knocking down six straight free throws. And when Wade threw the ball away and failed to convert on a free throw of his own, the Mountaineers built enough of a cushion to hold on the rest of the way.
They’re a great team. They made some plays down the stretch,” Wade said. “We’ve just got to move on from this game, it’s behind us. We can’t do anything about it now.”