Bobby Hurley was practically the only coach mentioned coming into and during this contest, but it was the elder and wiser Bob Huggins who came away with the win today as the Mountaineers beat the Bulls from Buffalo 68-62. I promise that is the last time I will use the name of Buffalo's coach, as those who watched the game surely know who he is after the exhaustive coverage by the TNT crew.
In the first round of the NCAA Tournament West Virginia jumped out to an early lead and was causing massive confusion to the Bulls' offense. Daxter Miles Jr. drained an early 3 and Devin Williams started his day with a nice 2 to give the Mountaineers a 5-0 start. West Virginia continued to score and move the ball around to its many different weapons and with 12 minutes left in the first half, the Mountaineers had used two 7-0 runs to build a 20-7 lead. However, as with most WVU games this season, a cold stretch allowed Buffalo to close that gap with their own 12-4 run to cut the Mountaineers' lead to 6. At 6 minutes left in the half, West Virginia found itself up 27-21 in what may have been the longest half in basketball history. Two long minutes later, Buffalo cut the lead in half again and was down 3 with under 4 to play.
Then Juwan Staten did what Juwan Staten does and started driving to the hoop with reckless abandon. Showing some rust from his extended injury absence, Staten did everything he could to shake it off and, at times, looked like the dominant point guard we've all come to know over the years. Then, the defense took a cue from our fearless leader and started to take the ball away almost at will. With the combination of Staten and a revved up defense, WVU took a 36-26 lead into halftime.
No NCAA 5 vs 12 game would be complete without at least a modicum of drama, and Buffalo played its role perfectly. The Bulls came out hot in the second half and quickly cut the 10 point lead to 3 after a 7-0 run. In typical West Virginia fashion, the Mountaineers continued to pressure and grind and extended their lead again to 11 with just under 12 in the second half. The TNT announcers, beginning to see what WVU faithful already known, started to give Bob Huggins his first mentions of the game with just under 8 minutes left in the second half.
To Buffalo's credit, the Bulls did not roll over for the Mountaineers and fought their way back to tie the game with 2:24 left. A collective inhale could be heard from the WVU faithful as the Mountaineers backed off the pressure defense they are known for and went to a zone defense. After Williams made 2 free throws, WVU put the press back on and forced an immediate Buffalo timeout. Things were again right with the universe.
Quite possibly the biggest shot of the game came when Tarik Phillip drained a 3 point shot with the shot clock winding down to put the Mountaineers up 5 with under 30 seconds left to play. Buffalo was unable to convert a few desperate 3 point tries, and West Virginia closed out the game 68-62.
In the final 2 minutes, it became evident who wanted this win more as WVU hustled, scrapped, and clawed their way to a 6 point win over a pesky Buffalo team. Juwan Staten took the game and team on his shoulders and slashed to the rim over and over. Devin Williams played like the big man we know he can be, and the rest of the team rallied around that intensity and performed as we've come to expect. Constant hustle. Constant pressure. Relentless basketball. It was a great day to be a Mountaineer. Juwan Staten finished the game with 15 points, while Devin Williams had the team high with 17.
The Mountaineers will face the winner of Maryland and Valparaiso on Sunday, March 22.
Here are the final stats from the game:
|Justin Moss, F||3-6||0-0||7-11||0||7||7||1||0||0||1||4||13|
|Xavier Ford, F||5-9||3-6||3-3||1||1||2||0||2||1||2||3||16|
|Jarryn Skeete, G||0-5||0-4||0-0||0||2||2||2||0||0||2||1||0|
|Shannon Evans, G||5-9||3-5||2-2||0||2||2||2||1||1||2||1||15|
|Lamonte Bearden, G||3-6||0-0||2-3||1||3||4||6||1||0||7||4||8|
|Raheem Johnson, F||2-5||0-0||0-2||4||1||5||0||0||1||0||3||4|
|Will Regan, F||1-2||0-1||0-0||1||0||1||1||0||0||0||5||2|
|Rodell Wigginton, G||1-2||0-0||2-4||1||3||4||0||0||0||3||3||4|
|West Virginia Mountaineers|
|Jonathan Holton, F||0-3||0-1||0-0||0||1||1||0||0||1||0||5||0|
|Devin Williams, F||5-6||0-0||7-9||3||6||9||1||1||0||5||3||17|
|Daxter Miles Jr., G||3-8||2-4||2-2||2||1||3||0||0||0||0||2||10|
|Gary Browne, G||1-4||1-3||2-4||0||3||3||3||1||0||0||3||5|
|Juwan Staten, G||5-9||0-0||5-7||0||3||3||7||1||0||4||1||15|
|Nathan Adrian, F||1-2||0-1||0-0||2||0||2||0||0||0||1||4||2|
|Brandon Watkins, F||0-1||0-0||0-0||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|BillyDee Williams, F||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Elijah Macon, F||1-2||0-0||0-0||0||1||1||0||0||0||2||4||2|
|Jevon Carter, G||1-7||0-3||3-4||0||1||1||0||2||0||0||0||5|
|Jaysean Paige, G||1-2||1-2||0-0||0||1||1||0||1||0||0||0||3|
|Tarik Phillip, G||4-5||1-2||0-1||1||2||3||0||1||0||0||1||9|