The West Virginia Mountaineers defeated the 8-5 Kansas State Wildcats in Morgantown, 71-68. Kansas State came into the game with only 8 scholarship players and was coached by their 3rd different head coach in the past 3 games due to COVID issues. The Mountaineers were led by Sean McNeil’s career high 26 points, Taz Sherman’s 14 points, and 11 points from Keddy Johnson. The Wildcats were led by 20 from Nijel Pack and 14 points and 8 rebounds from Mark Smith.
Taz Sherman, Gabe Osabuohien, and Kobe Johnson rejoined the team after exited COVID protocols. Despite having their leading scorer back after a 1 game absence, the Mountaineer’s offense sputtered early on once again. WVU started off shooting 0-6 from the field during the first 3 minutes of the game and 1-12 through the first 6 minutes of the game. Not only was the offense poor and inconsistent, the defense struggled as well. Kansas State shot 47% from the field and 9-18 from 3-point line, with 5 of those 9 three pointers coming from wide open looks from the corner. This lead to a deficit that topped out at 17 points about halfway through the first half. A 12-4 run, which included scores from 5 different Mountaineers cut down the lead to single digits with 8:30 left in the first half. However, the short-handed Wildcats continued battling, taking a 40-27 lead into halftime.
In the first half, the Mountaineers were led by 8 points from Taz Sherman, 7 from Sean McNeil, and 5 from Kobe Johnson in the first half. Gabe Osabuohien and Isaiah Cottrell played exceptional defense in the first half as well. For the Wildcats, Mark Smith led with 10 points, Nijel Pack scored 9, and Marquis Nowell scored 8 alongside 8 assists.
WVU opened up the 2nd half in scoring with a jumper from Isaiah Cottrell, and the offense looked to be off to a much stronger start, shooting 3-6 in the first 3 minutes to cut the Kansas State lead to single digits. Following a Kansas State timeout, Keddy Johnson made two driving layups to cut the deficit to 5, and the Mountaineer defense clamped down on the Wildcat offense leading to a 3:30+ minute scoring deficit for Kansas State. WVU continued to chip away at the KSU lead over the next 5 minutes before a Sean McNeil layup tied the game with 9:10 left in the 2nd half, and a deep 3-pointer from Sean McNeil gave WVU its first lead of the game with 8:36 remaining. During the 8+ minute run, the Mountaineers outscored the Wildcats 23-11.
Kansas State was able to draw even with the Mountaineers a couple times over the following minutes. However, back to back 3-pointers from Taz Sherman gave the Mountaineers a 6 point lead. A McNeil mid-range jumper would give the Mountaineers’ its biggest lead of the game at 8 points. The Wildcats would pull within 2 on multiple occasions, but the Mountaineers had an answer on every occasion, including when the Wildcats cut WVU’s lead to 1 with 5.1 seconds left. In the second half, the Mountaineers improved greatly from 3 in the 2nd half, shooting 5 for 12. Additionally, the great defense of Osabuohien and Cottrell continued in the 2nd half, both locking down the paint. Sean McNeil also improved on his first half, pouring in 19 points of his 26 points in the 2nd half, leading to his career best scoring performance.
The Mountaineers return to action on Tuesday, January 11th when they face off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at 9PM in Morgantown. The game can be watched on ESPNU.
Be sure to check out our recap of this game on the Voice of Motown Podcast on Tuesday! You can listen to previous episodes, including our interviews with Deuce McBride and Stedman Bailey from the player below: