By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Bob Huggins felt like Dr. Frankenstein on Monday night upon his return to Manhattan, Kan., where he created a monster of a basketball team in his one season as head coach.
“He definitely changed the mindset of Kansas State basketball,” said current coach Bruce Weber, crediting Huggins, who had taken over a school that had not had a winning season in seven years, before his team scored its 21st victory by overwhelming WVU, 71-61, in a game that was nowhere nearly as close as the score.
The loss left the Mountaineers at 13-13 during the regular season with a 6-7 Big 12 record, leaving them with almost no chance of earning an NCAA bid and looking at the potential for a losing season as the rest of the schedule is torturous.
The evening started in the classiest of fashions as Huggins walked into the arena for the first time since his year coaching here, the fans giving him a standing ovation, something he doesn’t even get at home when he enters the arena.
“I said a thousand times I never would have left here other than to come home to West Virginia,” Huggins said.
As the night played out, he couldn’t get home to West Virginia fast enough.
It was a night filled with emotion, so much so that when Huggins’ star freshman, Eron Harris, picked up his third foul early in the third quarter after having only played seven first-half minutes due to fouls, he found himself so distraught as he sat on the bench that he actually cried.
He later would commit an unnecessary personal foul as WVU was trying to fight back into contention and was also hit with a technical that fouled him out of the game, the Mountaineers’ second technical.
Huggins, who has simmered all season about the inconsistency of the Big 12 officiating, finally had it as his team trailed badly early in the second half and Huggins felt they had missed a foul committed on Deniz Kilicli, and exploded at official Joe DeRosa, a onetime NBA official, and got himself T’ed up with a technical.
Kilicli took the cue from his coach and went on his own personal crusade trying to inspire his team to get back into the game, scoring six of WVU’s next nine points, but K-State continued to figure out ways to keep the lead safe.
The Mountaineers actually cut the led to 14 and seemed to be inspired but then Harris made one of those killer freshman mistakes, knocking Will Spradling down through frustration. He was charged with the personal and a technical, fouling him out, and when all four free throws were made the lead was back to 18 and it was all but over.
Spradling scored 19 to lead all scorers as K-State had five in double figures, while Deniz Kilicli scored 16 for the Mountaineers.
The start of the game could not have been worse as WVU fell behind 20-6.
There are any of a number of ways you can state just how badly things were going, but here are just a few of them:
• Within a minute Dominique Rutledge had to replace Kevin Noreen because he just couldn’t keep up with the four-guard K-State offense.
• Within five minutes WVU’s only two real scoring threats, Eron Harris and Deniz Kilicli, were on the bench with two fouls.
• K-State’s first three baskets were all for three points.
• At the 12-minute mark of the first half WVU had four points but six fouls and six turnovers.
• At one point in the half WVU went 5:19 without a basket and got off only three shots in that time.
It really was that bad — and worse.
As it was, WVU finished the half by getting five straight points from Jabarie Hinds, including WVU’s only 3 in eight tries, to cut the K-State lead to 33-20 ... which was a lot closer than it seemed at the moment.
WVU was shooting only 30.4 percent at the half with four assists and eight turnovers, their two key scorers, Harris and Kilicli, totaling only two points, the game’s first field goal by Kilicli.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.