MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Barry Brown had repeatedly driven down the right side of the lane for buckets, or at the very least a foul, helping Kansas State slowly emerge from a 21-point second-half hole against West Virginia.
So with the game on the line in the final minute, was there any question what he would do?
Brown hesitated at the top of the key, took a couple dribbles to his right and got an off-balance leaner over the Mountaineers’ Derek Culver to go with 28.9 seconds left Wednesday night, giving Brown 29 points for the game and the Wildcats a wild 71-69 victory.
“We tried everybody on him. It wasn’t like he did it against one particular guy,” Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said later. “The puzzling thing for me, he has it on the right side. He’s right-handed. He’s a very heavy right-handed finisher, and we continued to let him drive it to the right.”
Brown didn’t engineer the biggest comeback in school history alone.
Mike McGuirl added 18 points and Kamau Stokes, dealing with a lingering foot injury, had 12 as the Wildcats (11-4, 1-2 Big 12) beat the Mountaineers for only the second time in their last 11 meetings.
“I wouldn’t say we were struggling the first half to score. We got open shots. We just were missing them,” Brown said. “It was just a matter of putting the ball in the basket, and in the second half we were able to stay confident and we began to knock down shots.”
West Virginia (8-7, 0-3) led 42-21 early in the second half before Kansas State used a 17-0 run to get back in the game. Still, the Mountaineers had a shot to win in the final seconds, but Culver’s off-balance shot in the lane missed wide and the Wildcats secured the rebound.
Xavier Sneed added a foul shot and West Virginia couldn’t get off a half-court heave.
Lamont West finished with 21 points and Culver had 17 for the Mountaineers, who have never lost their first three Big 12 games. In fact, they’ve won at least 11 each of the past four seasons.
“We had as good of shots as they did,” Huggins said. “We just didn’t make them.”
Many fans showed up to Bramlage Coliseum to see the Big 12’s two worst offenses wondering whether the first team to 50 would win, and for a while it looked as if 40 might do it.
Kansas State’s only field goal over the first 11-plus minutes came on a goaltending call, and at one point the Wildcats went more than seven minutes without a point. It wasn’t until Stokes hit a jumper just before the final media timeout that they scored from more than 3 feet out.
Not that West Virginia was lighting things up.
The Mountaineers were 6 of 14 from beyond the arc in the first half, and a series of turnovers and sloppy execution allowed the Wildcats — down 20-3 at one point — to stay within 36-21 at halftime.
Kansas State’s comeback bid appeared to be in jeopardy when big man Makol Mawien picked up two fouls in the first minute of the second half, sending him to the bench with four. The Mountaineers were able to push their lead to 42-21 with 18:45 to go, but they couldn’t bury the Wildcats.
What came next was as stunning as it was unexpected.
The Wildcats, so inept on offense, ripped off 17 points during a run that never slowed even when West Virginia coach Bob Huggins called timeout. Brown led the way with nine during the charge, but it was McGuirl — averaging just 2.4 points a game — that provided the emotional lift.
His 3-pointer got the Wildcats within 44-41 with 12:10 to go.
West Virginia stretched the lead back to 10, but the Wildcats kept answering every run, and Sneed finally gave them their first lead when he converted a four-point play with 2:30 remaining.
Their first but not their last.
“You’re proud of them. You’re happy for them,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “Obviously as a coach you take a deep breath, and now can we move forward and play with that same sense of composure? That sense of urgency? That competitive spirit in the second half?”
West Virginia has struggled without Sagaba Konate, their best offensive and defensive player, who has been out with a knee injury. Brandon Knapper made the trip after serving a one-game suspension but he only played three minutes off the bench.
Kansas State rallied from 18 down in the 1970s against Missouri, and twice from 17-point deficits in the 1995 season. The Wildcats overcame the biggest deficit in school history without their own star, Dean Wade, who remains out with a foot injury.
West Virginia returns home to face Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Kansas State starts a two-game trip at No. 20 Iowa State on Saturday.