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Friday, January 06, 2006

WVU Hangs On

WVU Hangs On
By John Antonik for
January 5, 2006

    TAMPA – Mike Gansey scored 18 points and Kevin Pittsnogle added 16 to lead No. 24 West Virginia to a 57-53 victory over South Florida Thursday night in the Sun Dome in Tampa.

    South Florida guard Chris Capko, left, knocks the ball away from West Virginia's J.D. Collins during the first half of their NCAA college basketball Thursday night Jan. 5, 2006 at the Sun Dome in Tampa, Fla. Looking on is South Florida's McHugh Mattis (15).
    AP photo/Chris O'Meara

    USF (6-8, 0-1), playing its first-ever Big East Conference game, hung around throughout. The Bulls took advantage of some cold West Virginia shooting to take an early 13-7 lead before the Mountaineers went on a 6-3 run to tie the game at 16 on a Frank Young floater.

    Three straight West Virginia steals led to seven Gansey points – all layups – including a three-point play with 3:39 left in the half. West Virginia’s biggest lead of the first half was nine, 25-16, on another Gansey lay-in before USF scored the final six points of the half to close WVU’s margin to three, 25-22, at halftime.

    “We were 2 for 12 (from 3-point distance) at halftime and I thought in the last minute and a half we went for a 2 for 1 and it almost ended up killing us,” said West Virginia coach John Beilein. “But we survived and learned a little bit from that.”

    USF tied the game at 31 on a McHugh Mattis layup with 14:30 left in the second half, but Pittsnogle answered with a big 3-point basket from the top of the key. The Mountaineers built their lead back to seven on Patrick Beilein’s school-record 201st career 3-pointer with 10:05 remaining and led by eight, 51-43, on a Herber bucket inside the five-minute mark.

    Beilein got West Virginia’s lead back to nine, 55-46, on a driving layup, but baskets by James Holmes and Solomon Jones, and a 3 by Melvin Buckley with 1:40 left cut West Virginia’s lead to just two.

    The Mountaineers had a chance to extend its lead with 1:18 remaining, but J.D. Collins missed both free throw opportunities. On the other end the Bulls were unable to get a good look at the basket and after giving up three fouls, USF finally put Pittsnogle to the line for a one-and-one with 20.6 seconds remaining.

    Pittsnogle sank both. South Florida’s final field-goal try was hauled in by Joe Herber, who held onto the basketball until the clock ran out.

    “They were letting Kevin get the ball and shutting out J.D., Pat and Joe so they couldn’t get it and Kevin had to make plays,” Beilein said. “They get up and guard you and they’re quicker than we are.”

    Pittsnogle moved into 19th place on WVU’s career scoring list with 1,309 points, passing forward Maurice Robinson with 1,307. Pittsnogle needs just eight points to move past Tracy Shelton into 18th place with 1,316 points.

    Jones led South Florida with 18 points and Buckley added 16. The Mountaineers shot 41.1 percent (23 of 56) while South Florida shot 40.4 percent (19 of 47).

    The Mountaineers made just 6 of 24 3-point field goals for 25 percent.

    “It’s going to be like this no matter where you go, particularly for us,” said Beilein. “I’m sure UConn or Syracuse is going to have off-nights but still eat up the backboard. We can’t eat up the backboards, we got out-rebounded by 20, we shot 25 percent from 3, and still win.”

    West Virginia (9-3, 1-0) won its Big East opener for the first time since the 2002-03 season. WVU was clobbered on the boards tonight being out-rebounded 42-22. The Mountaineers were able to make up some of that by forcing 21 South Florida turnovers.

    “They were physical tonight – not even Oklahoma was that physical against us,” said Beilein.

    WVU remains on the road to take on No. 3-rated Villanova Sunday afternoon at The Pavilion. Villanova knocked off No. 8 Louisville 76-67 in Louisville earlier tonight.

    “Hopefully we’ll have some bounce in our legs when we go to Villanova,” Beilein said.

    The Wildcats blew out West Virginia 84-46 at The Pavilion last year.

    West Virginia basketball players observe a moment of silence Thursday night, Jan 5, 2006, before the start of their NCAA college basketball game with South Florida in Tampa, for the 12 people killed in the mining accident earlier this week in West Virginia.
    AP photo/Chris O'Meara

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