MORGANTOWN — It wasn’t the retribution everyone expected.
Sure, West Virginia University exacted a certain measure of getting even by defeating Kansas State 66-57 in front of 14,224 fans here Saturday in the WVU Coliseum.
But it didn’t exactly make up for the 84-68 beatdown the Wildcats administered the Mountaineers on Jan. 18 in Manhattan, Kansas.
Not even close.
This often ugly win also didn’t wash the lingering taste out of the Mountaineers’ mouths from the 89-81 loss WVU suffered to Texas Tech last Wednesday in Lubbock, Texas.
So, there were two good reasons for the Mountaineers to be revenge-minded here Saturday, but that simply wasn’t WVU’s mindset.
“We had a chance to put ’em away in the first half,” said Chase Harler, WVU senior guard. “We went up 10, 12 points but let them back in it.”
Instead of being in payback mode, the Mountaineers were hospitable.
“We didn’t play very well out there,” continued Harler, who finished with eight points. “It got pretty ugly. And we owed them one.”
Indeed, they did.
But the Mountaineers came out of the gate so lethargically, WVU head coach Bob Huggins jerked the entire starting five off the floor only 2:22 into the game, replacing the quartet with five reserves.
Oscar Tshiebwe wasn’t.
“It was not a surprise for me,” said the true freshman power forward, who finished with eight points and eight rebounds. “I knew he was going to do that. He didn’t like the way we started the game.”
There’s a good reason for that.
WVU simply wasn’t being aggressive enough, tough enough or revenge-minded enough. Especially considering the Mountaineers were playing in the Coliseum in front of a big crowd.
“He did that,” explained Tshiebwe, “because he wanted us to get in the game.”
Well, sort of.
WVU did pull away for a 14-point lead with 9:00 remaining in the second half. Yet, Kansas State still managed to whittle the final margin down to single digits.
So, the Mountaineers simply didn’t get even for the embarrassing loss they endured in Manhattan.
“It got pretty ugly at Kansas State,” said WVU sophomore center Derek Culver, who finished with game highs of 19 points and 14 rebounds. “But we really didn’t see the game out there that we had at Texas Tech.
“Texas Tech put us in a lot of one-on-one situations, defensively. That’s not really how we play defense. We were more back to our defense today.”
He has a point.
The Mountaineers’ defense created a couple of significant scoring droughts for Kansas State. In the first half, the Wildcats went 4:44 without scoring, which included a 0-for-6 shooting binge.
Then, with 13:13 remaining in the game, WVU had limited Kansas State to 1-of-7 shooting during the second half, including 0 of 3 on 3-point attempts.
So, the Mountaineers had their defensive moments.
But did WVU put its collective foot on Kansas State’s throat and put the game away? Did the Mountaineers exact their pound of flesh? Did they enjoy doling out the sort of revenge that is best served cold?
“It seems like we’re either in a close game,” said Harler, “or a blowout.”
This should’ve been a blowout.