MANHATTAN, Kan. -- There were times throughout his career, including occasions this season, when Deniz Kilicli figured he was too brutish for his own good.
Now it's the best thing going for West Virginia.
The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Kilicli has always played basketball with a forceful purpose. Don't let the spinning, arching hook shots around the basket disguise his demeanor.
Officiating crews haven't always allowed Kilicli to play with his more physical natural style, but he has gradually adapted and learned to watch how each game is being called.
"I learned some things from three years," he said.
To understand the depths of his concern about officiating, consider that last year Kilicli reasoned he was better suited to come off the bench because he felt officials called the game stricter at the start to set a standard that served to discourage the way he plays.
Entering tonight's 9 p.m. game against No. 10 Kansas State (20-5, 8-2 Big 12) that will be televised on ESPN, Kilcili has five double-figure scoring performances in the last eight games, including a career-high 25 in Saturday's 66-64 win against Texas Tech at the Coliseum.
He wasn't nearly as effective earlier this season and toward the start of conference play - WVU's first season in the Big 12 after Kilicli spent the prior three seasons in the Big East - there was a learning curve to be respected.
"The referees have a clue about every player, what those players do, where they foul, where they can't move their feet, stuff like that," Kilicli said. "They had an idea about us, but we had no idea about the Big 12. Now we know, but in the beginning of the year it was hard."
Kilicli was bumped out of the starting lineup for four games last month, but upon his return he's been noticeably more active and assertive and has worked harder than ever to get open and to stay open in the post.
If he gets the ball, he generally does something with it. He's scored 96 points the past seven games on 62 field-goal attempts and 42 free-throw attempts.
"Everyone is somehow strong, so if you let him catch it in the post, it's either going to be a foul or he's going to make it," Kilicli said.
In Saturday's victory, Kilicli attempted 11 shots and 14 free throws as three defenders who tried defending him fouled out of the game.
"They let me catch the ball," Kilicli said. "Once I did, I went straight up."
A game before, Kilicli took 10 shots and only six free throws and scored 13 points in a 20-point loss at Baylor.