MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia followed the same formula it used against Texas Wednesday night in Saturday's game with No. 18 Kansas State at the Coliseum.
The results weren't quite as pleasing, though.
The Mountaineers scrapped and clawed their way back into a late-game lead but couldn't hold it in the hectic final seconds and fell 65-64 to Kansas State.
The loss leaves the Mountaineers at 8-7 overall and 1-2 in the Big 12. Kansas State is 13-2 and 2-0.
Afterward, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, normally bordering on irate after a loss, seemed more disappointed than anything else. He seemed to understand that his team played well enough to put itself in position to win but just failed to do so at the end.
Actually, for a team that only a week ago seemed lost while blowing a big lead and losing to Oklahoma, that's improvement.
"But it's hard knowing you only play 18 league games,'' Huggins said, "and we've already lost two at home.''
West Virginia lost this one because it couldn't make plays in the final seconds. Freshman Eron Harris made an off-balance shot from the baseline with 25.8 seconds to play to give the Mountaineers a 64-63 lead, but four seconds later Dominique Rutledge was called for a foul on Shane Southwell at the other end.
With a Coliseum crowd of 10,039 as loud as it had been all day, Southwell sank both shots for the lead.
"Give him credit,'' said WVU guard Jabarie Hinds. "It was really loud and he made the shots.''
Still, with more than 20 seconds to play and the ball, West Virginia had ample opportunity to counter and couldn't.
First, Hinds tried to drive and make something happen. He threw up a bad shot from about 14 feet that had no chance. But the rebound was batted out of bounds to the Mountaineers with 9.1 seconds to play.
The plan there?
"Run the play we ran for [Da'Sean Butler] when he made five game-winning shots,'' Huggins said.
Hinds was to play the part of Butler, but the inbounds pass was tipped, Hinds couldn't catch it and Kansas State's Angel Rodriguez nearly had it heading to his own basket.
"The pass got to me. I got my hands on it,'' Hinds said. "I just didn't catch the ball.''
The guy who threw the inbounds pass, though, Gary Browne, hustled down and got it back as Rodriguez was trying to get a handle on it. By that time about five seconds remained and Browne took it all the way to the baseline and tried to score. But he was stuffed by Southwell and the game was over.
But while the focus was naturally on those final seconds, West Virginia perhaps lost the game earlier and in other ways. The Mountaineers allowed Kansas State to shoot nearly 70 percent in the first half, negating their own 65 percent shooting.
West Virginia didn't hit the boards at all in that first half, either. True, there weren't many misses, but at halftime the Mountaineers had just four rebounds, none of them on their own misses. By game's end the rebounding was virtually even, but there were some lost opportunities there in that first half.
"That's all we talked about. We have to win the battle on the boards,'' Huggins said. "We get four rebounds in the first half. Four.''
But the real difference was perhaps at the free-throw line. West Virginia missed 10 of its 22 shots, including a 1-for-6 performance by Hinds, a 68 percent shooter. Kansas State had far fewer opportunities but made nine of 14.
"I think we'd made more free throws than anyone in the six power conferences,'' Huggins said. "And then we go 12 for 22.''
Hinds, who has at least temporarily broken out of a shooting slump that saw him make just 32 percent in the first 14 games, led WVU with 15 points, made six of his 10 shots and both of his 3-pointers. Aaric Murray had 11 points and Terry Henderson 10.
Southwell, averaging 6.3 points, scored 17 for Kansas State, the same as preseason All-Big 12 guard Rodney McGruder.
As was the case in West Virginia's overtime win at Texas Wednesday night, the Mountaineers trailed most of the game. Kansas State led by as many as five in the first half and seven in the second, although that seven-point edge (48-41) came at the end of a 12-0 run that wiped out WVU's biggest lead (41-36) after the Mountaineers scored the first eight points of the second half.
As was the case with that Texas game, each time Kansas State opened a bit of a lead, West Virginia refused to let it get out of hand and eventually clawed back.
The game was the Mountaineers' last at home until Jan. 23 when they face TCU. West Virginia plays twice on the road this week - Wednesday at Iowa State and the final non-conference game of the year Saturday at Purdue.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
Kansas State 65, West Virginia 64