MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Finally, the question of whether or not West Virginia still has any sort of chance to compete for an NCAA tournament berth might be ready to be put to rest.
The bigger question now is this: Do the Mountaineers have a chance at any sort of postseason invitation at all?
It certainly didn't appear that way for most of Monday's game with No. 13 Kansas State.
In front of a loud and rowdy crowd of 12,329 at Bramlage Coliseum, West Virginia fell behind from the start and was seldom even competitive in losing, 71-61. WVU scored the game's final 10 points to make the final score seem closer than the game itself.
The loss once again extended West Virginia's string of frustrations against the best teams in the Big 12. The Mountaineers (13-13, 6-7 Big 12) still have yet to defeat a team ranked among the top six in the league (0-7), while feasting only on the bottom three of Texas, Texas Tech and TCU (6-0).
Yet despite that, coach Bob Huggins isn't ready to give up on his .500 team quite yet.
"I guess it means we're due, aren't we,'' Huggins said when he was reminded of his team's futility against the better teams on the schedule.
Well, if that's true then WVU gets another shot at one of those top teams on Saturday when it plays Oklahoma State at the Coliseum. It's first of consecutive homes games for the Mountaineers, who then host Baylor next Wednesday.
Kansas State, long an also ran in college basketball until Huggins ignited the program during his one season as the team's coach in 2006-07, improved to 21-5 overall and 10-3 in the Big 12. The Wildcats temporarily moved a half game ahead of Kansas and Oklahoma State in the league standings with the win.
In a sometimes-sloppy, generally tedious game marked by an almost uninterrupted barrage of whistles, West Virginia did little right from the start. It began with Deniz Kilicli and Eron Harris -- who two days earlier combined for 40 of the team's 66 points in a win over Texas Tech -- both exiting in less than eight minutes because of foul trouble.
It continued with a run of four straight turnovers during a span of more than five minutes in which the Mountaineers didn't score a point and managed only three shots. By the time that was over, Kansas State had built an 18-4 lead and never again would the margin even approach single digits.
But as non-competitive as the game was, it was made even worse by the constant whistles that interrupted play. No less than 49 fouls were called, 28 of them against Kansas State.
By the time it was over, Huggins and Harris had both gotten technical fouls, Huggins for complaining about one of the few times a whistle wasn't blown during the game. Harris got his -- and fouled out in the process -- with 9:24 to go when he pushed Will Spradling down near halfcourt.
Kilicli, despite playing just seven minutes in the first half, led West Virginia with 16 points and missed only two shots from the field.
"The second half I just told myself I have to be clean on every possession,'' said Kilicli, who committed only one foul after halftime. "I could have helped in the first half if I'd been in there and played the way I did in the second. Maybe it would have been a closer game.''
Harris' troubles pretty much summed up how bad West Virginia was. Easily the team's most consistent scorer for the last month, he played only eight minutes, attempted just two shots and didn't score a point.
Spradling led five Wildcats in double figures with 19 points, becoming the latest in a long line of shooters who have torched the Mountaineers.
"We didn't guard him,'' Huggins said of Spradling. "He's a good player. If you let him shoot the ball he'll make shots. We let him shoot the ball.''
The Wildcats shot 50 percent and survived 18 turnovers.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1
Kansas State 71, West Virginia 61
West Virginia (13-13, 6-7)
FG FT R A P
Deniz Kilicli 6-8 4-5 4 0 16
Jabarie Hinds 3-7 0-0 1 0 8