MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Juwan Staten had a career day with 35 points as West Virginia knocked off Kansas State 81-71 on Saturday.
It was the second straight league win for the Mountaineers (13-9, 5-4 Big 12) and third in the last four games. Kansas State (15-7, 5-4) lost for the third time in four contests.
Staten had four rebounds and five assists, and connected on 8 of 13 field goals and 18 of 21 from the line – both free throw marks career bests. Terry Henderson had 13 points, Eron Harris scored 11 and Remi Dibo had 10.
“I just wanted to win, that’s all,” said Staten. “I saw opportunities and I took them. We kind of ran a little bit of a different offense this game than what we have in the past. And it really worked for us, it really opened up the driving lanes, especially since Kansas State plays the passing lanes. We knew that they’d be open to back cuts and driving lanes, and that’s what we did.”
The Wildcats got 20 points from Marcus Foster and 19 from Thomas Gipson.
Those two KSU players connected on 18 of 27 shots, but Staten provided much of what the Mountaineers needed to avenge a 78-56 defeat in Manhattan on Jan. 18, which has proved to be West Virginia’s worst loss of the season.
Staten’s previous career-high in points (28) and free throws made/attempted (14 of 19) was against Duquesne on Nov. 17, 2003.
His 18 made free throws broke a school record held by Rod Thorn, set against George Washington in 1963.
Staten was just 1 of 6 from the free throw line in his last game against Baylor.
“I must have watched those free throws about 20 times. Watching them, disappointed in myself, and I felt like I needed to come out and really prove that I can make free throws, cause that’s something I work on every day. So that factored in a little bit, as far as trying to drive the ball and get to the rim, trying to get fouled. I knew they didn’t have a typical rim protector in there, so I knew that I’d be able to at least get my shot off or get a good look,” Staten said.
Free throws were important to WVU, which connected on 29 of 37 of the foul shots, even after Staten missed his first two of the game.
WVU’s 78.4 percentage from the line far surpassed the 8 of 19 (42.1) percent effort by Kansas State, as the Wildcats missed key free throws and close-in shots throughout the game.
“You have to make free throws, we didn’t get many, they got a bunch,” said Kansas State coach Bruce Weber. “And when we didn’t make them, it makes it tough. Staten is a heck of a player. And when he gets to the line 35 times or whatever it was, it’s tough to deal with. We just couldn’t guard it.”
WVU built an 8-point first half lead, but the second half saw two major runs. K-State rattled off eight straight points to knot the score at 53 with 12:17 to go. But Staten scored six of the next seven points to put West Virginia ahead 60-53 with 9:30 showing.
Kansas State whittled it down to one at 68-67 with 3:09 left on a 6-0 run concluded by a jumper from Foster, who posted his second league 20-plus point game of his first season.
However, Gipson flicked the ball out-of-bounds on KSU’s next possession and Dibo followed with a 3-pointer. Henderson added two free throws to push the lead back to six at 73-67.
After Foster canned one-of-two free throws, teammate Shane Southwell let another ball get out-of-bounds. The Mountaineers connected on six straight free throws, then a dunk by Staten, to close out the game.
Staten entered the game with deluxe Big 12 statistics, within the top seven in the conference in six different categories, including fourth in scoring with 17.2 ppg.
“They kind of embarrassed us down at Kansas State — did a lot of laughing and joking and celebrating and that really got to us. We definitely didn’t play our best basketball down there so we needed to come out and really show them what we have,” Staten said.