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WVU Survives Kansas State, Advances to Big 12 Final

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Tarik Phillip scored 13 points in the second half as WVU edged Kansas State 51-50. Tarik Phillip scored 13 points in the second half as WVU edged Kansas State 51-50.

Esa Ahmad got back in the starting line up and scored 15 points as No. 2 seed West Virginia rallied for a 51-50 win over No. 6 Kansas State.

Ahmad provided the spark West Virginia needed late in the second when he hit a pair from the line, back-to-back buckets and a triple to get WVU within two with just over six minutes on the clock.

The action finally started to heat up in the last few minutes.

Barry Brown and Jevon Carter traded three’s as the Wildcats kept a 48-45 advantage with 4:48 left to play.

Tarik Phillip drained a shot from the corner after a Wesley Iwundu lay in to tie it at 50.

After two missed three-point attempts for the Mountaineers, Ahmad went 1-of-2 from the line, giving WVU its second lead of game, 51-50, with 20. 2 seconds left.

Kamau Stokes got off a three pointer but it bounced off the rim as the buzzer went off and sealed the West Virginia victory.

"Kansas State is pretty good. Let's don't take anything away from them. Bruce has done a great job of coaching them. They played great last night. They played really well today," Coach Huggins said.

"We defend. We didn't do a very good job on our man and about, I don't know, three weeks ago we decided to try a little bit of the 1-3-1. I'm not very smart, but I'm smart enough when it works keep doing it. It's been pretty good for us."

To say it was a sloppy start for both teams would be an understatement. Dean Wade hit a jumper at the 17-minute mark for the first points of the contests. The Mountaineers would finally get on the board three minutes later courtesy Nate Adrian.

Adrian knocked down a three-pointer two minutes later followed up by a big block at the other end, setting up a Lamont West three. That would give WVU its first and only lead of the first half, 8-7.

But Kansas State would take over the momentum.

Left wide open under the net, Wade pushed one through. Carlbe Ervin added two more off the fastbreak. Isaiah Maurice threw one down with authority off the Barry Brown pass. And Stokes drained one from the corner as the Wildcats jumped out 18-8.

Frustration set in from there for the Mountaineers.

James Bolden came off the bench and hit a three, followed by one of the same from Ahmad to cut into the KSU lead.

It was an offense struggle for both teams in the opening half as the Wildcats took a 25-16 lead into the locker room. WVU shot 6-of-32 in the first half of action, Iowa State 9-of-23.

After knocking down a three, Tarik Phillip came up with a steal and hit one from almost the same spot. But Iwundu supplied the answer, he drained one from the arc and made it to the other end just in time to deny Ahmad.

Phillip would keep the offense going, picking up 10 points to get WVU within eight at the 10:54 mark. He totaled all 13 points in the second half.

Along with a team-high 15 points, Ahmad finished with 10 rebounds. He missed three of WVU's last four regular season contests due to a back injury. After he returned against Iowa State, it had been a struggle to get back into a rhythm, which he seemed to find again on Friday night.


"I started myself tonight. My teammates kept me positive throughout the whole slump. My coaches kept my positive, and they told me I was due for a good game. I came out here and tried to give it my all, and that's what I did," Ahmad said.

Kansas State held WVU to 26.7% from the floor and a season-low 51, but the Mountaineers managed to find a way to survive and advance.

"Coaching," laughed Coach Huggins when asked to explain how his team managed a win with that shooting percentage. "I don't know. I told 'em at halftime we've just got to find ways to score. We've got to get more shots. We just -- our whole thing is by either turning people over or rebounding the ball. We've got to get more shots than what our opposition does."

Iwundu lead K-State with 13 points, coming up with crucial shots down the stretch. Stokes was also a key contributor with 10 points.

"I really like him. He can defend the perimeter. He can defend the post. He can play in the post. He can play on a perimeter. He's a 6-7 guy who really rebounds with guard skills. We've always thought he was a really hard match-up for us. Esa was much better with him today than really what we've been. Esa has the same kind of size," Coach Huggins added of Iwundu.

No. 4 Iowa State was the first to punch its ticket to tomorrow’s title game. The Cyclones cruised to a 84-62 victory over No. 8 TCU in the first semifinal match up of the evening.

West Virginia will make its second straight trip to the the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship Final tomorrow at 6 p.m. against No. 4 seed Iowa State.

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