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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Red-faced, screaming and gesturing furiously, Bob Huggins charged out onto the court Monday night and exhorted the referees to blow the whistle.
The officials obliged by calling a technical foul on the fuming Huggins, who had to be hauled back to the bench by an assistant coach as West Virginia floundered in the second half.
It was a fitting characterization of how the night went for the former Kansas State coach, who returned to Bramlage Coliseum for the first time since 2007, when he led the Wildcats to 23 wins in his only year in Manhattan.
The Mountaineers were walloped by the No. 13 Wildcats, 71-61.
"I really like this place," Huggins said afterward. "I like the people. The people have been wonderful. It's nice to see people you haven't seen in a while, but at the end of the day, it's a business trip.
"We're supposed to win," he added. "We didn't."
Will Spradling scored 19 points for the Wildcats, who used an 18-2 run early in the game to spoil Huggins' return. Nino Williams had 13 points off the bench, and Angel Rodriguez had 11 points and seven assists as the Wildcats (21-5, 10-3) slipped into first place in the Big 12 by a half game over ninth-ranked Kansas and No. 14 Oklahoma State.
"Obviously a hard-fought win," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "Very physical game. Coach Huggins' teams play great defense, very physical. They try to disrupt you."
Deniz Kilicli had 16 points for the Mountaineers (13-13, 6-7), but he didn't get a whole lot of help. The rest of their starters combined for 13 points, with two of them getting shut out.
"What I thought was frustrating was we couldn't make a damn shot," Huggins said.
He watched the Wildcats seize control with their big run then was whistled for a technical foul for arguing with officials. Moments later, his leading scorer, freshman Eron Harris, fouled out after throwing an elbow on defense and picking up a technical foul of his own.
There were plenty of whistles blown in this game.
The officials called 49 fouls, and both teams spent more than 18 minutes in the bonus. The Mountaineers also had center Aaric Murray foul out, the Wildcats lost Jordan Henriquez, and there were three others who had four fouls when the game finally ended.
The teams combined to shoot 53 free throws.
"It was a very hard game to officiate," Weber said. "I know people get upset. I get upset. But I wouldn't take their job for anything."
After conceding the first basket a minute into the game, the Wildcats went on their big run that covered the next 8 minutes. Gipson did most of the damage inside for the Wildcats, the burly sophomore forward at one point scoring seven consecutive points.
"Let's be honest," Huggins said. "We give them five, maybe, layups in half-court defense in the first half. Maybe another three or four in the second half. You're talking somewhere between 16 and 20 points that were point-blank layups that eighth-graders make."
West Virginia was just 1 of 8 from beyond the arc over the first 20 minutes, and committed eight turnovers — six of them during Kansas State's big run early in the half.
"We weren't passing the ball," Jabarie Hinds said. "We were just holding the ball. ... We didn't have that much movement in our offense, so it was kind of easy for K-State to defend us."
Kansas State extended its lead to 41-22 in the opening minutes of the second half when Kilicli tried to make a move on the low post. This time, no whistle blew and Huggins roared out onto the court in a rage, his face beet-red and an assistant coach holding him back.
Huggins was hit with the technical foul, drawing a roar from the crowd, and Spradling made both free throws to give the Wildcats their biggest lead of the night with 16:25 remaining.
The outburst seemed to rile up the Mountaineers, who scored the next seven points to get within 43-29 with just under 14 minutes left in the game.
"When you see Coach fired up like that, you've got to do something — that's what comes to my mind when he's fired up, yelling at everybody and stuff," Kilicli said. "While he's trying so hard to get one call, why don't we just play, one time, defense and get the ball and score?"
But the Wildcats started to match them basket-for-basket, and another technical foul — this one on Harris, who threw an elbow toward Spradling's head — finished off West Virginia.
Harris also picked up a personal and fouled out of the game. Meanwhile, Spradling hit all four of his foul shots to restore a 58-40 lead.
"You can't do that," Kilicli said. "That was four points we gave up like that. They didn't have to work for it, and they scored four points and got the ball, and then on defense they got more momentum, and on defense they're way better than what they normally would be because they didn't do anything on offense to score, so that kind of killed us."