MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Another strong effort from its bench helped stop No. 21 West Virginia’s tailspin in February.
Reserve Brandon Watkins scored a career-high 14 points and West Virginia surrendered a double-digit lead before recovering for a 76-72 win over Kansas State on Wednesday night.
West Virginia (19-5, 7-4 Big 12) snapped a two-game losing streak and handed the Wildcats their fifth straight loss.
Kansas State (12-13, 5-7) scored 12 unanswered points to take a 69-67 lead late, but the Wildcats scored three the rest of the game.
“We needed this win,” West Virginia’s Gary Browne said. “But at the same time it was ugly. We should have won by 20.”
Juwan Staten added 11 points and reserves Jaysean Paige and Jevon Carter had 10 apiece for West Virginia. The Mountaineers’ bench outscored the Wildcats’ 47-19.
“Their bench just wears you down,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said.
It was the first game scoring in double figures this season for Watkins, who has averaged only seven minutes of playing time off the bench. His game-high nine rebounds were more than one-third of his previous total for the entire season.
“I think he got tired of sitting on the bench and did something about it,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.
But Huggins said Watkins made have been injured late in the game. Huggins didn’t specify the injury and indicated he would know more on Thursday.
Watkins made a pair of baskets and two free throws over a two-minute stretch to put West Virginia ahead 61-50 with 11:17 remaining. But he didn’t score the rest of the game and the Mountaineers got careless.
West Virginia missed five straight free throws and didn’t score over a three-minute span to allow Kansas State to mount its comeback.
Nigel Johnson made two layups and two free throws in 11 seconds, and Nino Williams capped the 12-0 run with a layup and free throw with 2:25 left to give Kansas State its first lead since early in the game.
“We kept fighting back and eventually we got over the hump and got a lead,” Weber said. “I was hoping and praying that some good things would happen, but they made more plays and that’s the difference in the game.”
Nathan Adrian made two free throws and Devin Williams’ second basket of the game put West Virginia ahead to stay at 71-69 with 1:51 left.
After the teams traded a free throw apiece, Johnson was called for an intentional foul with 20 seconds left. Carter made both free throws, Browne added two more with 10 seconds left and the Mountaineers held on.
West Virginia shot 28 percent from the floor after halftime.
“We’re pretty good at bad shot selection,” Huggins said. “I’m going to say today was a win, but it was frustrating.”
Nino Williams, who missed most of the teams’ first meeting last month with a left knee injury, led Kansas State with 22 points. Johnson and Justin Edwards scored 14 apiece and Thomas Gipson had 10.
The Wildcats five-game losing streak is their longest since a six-game skid during the 2004-2005 season.