"Everyone knew what to do," Kilicli said. "I think we did way better on rotations. People helped each other. It was like, bam, bam, bam. Everyone knew what to do at the same moment. Everyone wanted to win. Everyone wanted to do something for all the others. Nobody pouted. Nobody did any of that."
In the end, it was another loss and Kilicli played a part. He got stuck guarding Iowa State's Will Clyburn on a switch late in a possession and fouled Clyburn shooting a 3-pointer. Clyburn made all three free throws with 1:31 to go for a 76-67 lead.
Kilicli was nevertheless a factor in the comeback, despite his modest stats. He was a distinguished presence in the post and demanded double- and triple-teams against a defense that had Melvin Ejim, the Big 12's leading rebounder, for just 19 foul-plagued minutes.
All five of Kilicli's assists came in the second half. Each was on a 3-pointer as WVU spaced the floor to keep defenders away from Kilicli, but also open up room for shooters on the perimeter.
"We just raised them up," Coach Bob Huggins said. "I didn't think they could guard Deniz one-on-one. They had to bring help. We were going to get shots as long as we stayed spaced. Really, all we did was set back screens on the block for Deniz and throw it to him in space."
It worked and inspired the Mountaineers, who aren't used to streaky shooting, especially from 3-point range. The Mountaineers made 9 of 16 attempts in the second half. They missed 12 of 13 in the first half.
"I don't know what we were doing in the first half," Huggins said. "We didn't run any offense. I'm not blaming him, but when Deniz goes down and stands on the block, they know where he is. They're going to go down and give help and we don't get anything out of it. We've got to move him more. He can't stand there. The second half, all we did was back-screen to get him moving."
The Mountaineers now take whatever momentum the surge was worth to the Sprint Center in Kansas City for the conference tournament. They play Texas Tech (10-19, 3015) at 7 p.m. Wednesday on the Big 12 Network. WVU won both games against the Red Raiders this season, but not without adventure.
Texas Tech was within four points with five minutes to go in Lubbock, Texas, last month, but WVU made back-to-back 3s and then turned the Red Raiders over twice for layups in a 10-0 run. The Red Raiders missed a 3 to win the game at the buzzer in the Coliseum two weeks later.
The winner plays Kansas at 3 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.