Mountaineers Close Regular Season With Win

WVU won its final regular season Big East Conference game as the Mountaineers prepared for the league’s post season tournament by beating South Florida 50-44 Saturday afternoon in Tampa, Florida. 

The Mountaineers greatly enhanced their NCAA Tournament resume as improve to 19-12 overall and 9-9 in the Big East. They will finish no lower than 9th in the regular season standings. 

The game, as expected, was a defensive struggle most of the way. South Florida came in as the best defensive team in the league as it was holding opponents to just 57 points per game. 

It took over four minutes for the first field goal to be scored. The lead would exchange hands seven times in the first half. WVU had the lead at 11-10 following a Dominique Rutledge layup and that lead would grow to 24-19 at the break as Kevin Jones scored five of the final seven points for the Mountaineers in the half on a three point shot and a 20-foot jumper for two. 

South Florida dominated the early portion of the second half as Victor Rudd Jr. made consecutive baskets to put the Bulls up 25-24. South Florida would lead by as many as four with 11:44 remaining. 

"We started the second half just doing dumb things," said Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins in his post game radio interview. "But we made some key rotations and KJ got a huge block on defense. And Truck finally got some calls going to the basket." 

The Mountaineers re-took the lead on a Kevin Jones basket with 10:58 to go. A Truck Bryant three point play with 7:02 remaining had the Mountaineers up 41-39. South Florida managed to tie the game at 44-44 with 2:57 to go when Toarlyn Fitzpatrick hit a three, but two Kevin Jones free throws with 1:51 to go put the Mountaineers back in the lead for good. 

WVU got a key defensive stop in the final minute as freshman Gary Browne drew a charge against Jawanza Poland. The Mountaineers then sealed the game from the line as the seniors Jones and Bryant combined to go 16-16 from the line in the game.

"Gary did a great job," Huggins said about the offensive foul drawn by the freshman. "I thought it was the right call."  

The Mountaineers won the game despite shooting just 28 percent from the field as they were 15-52. South Florida shot 39 percent.

Jones led the Mountaineers with his 32nd career double-double as he had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Seven of those rebounds were on the offensive glass. Bryant went 12-12 from the line. Bryant drew a key foul on a three point shot attempt when the Mountaineers still trailed in the game. He drilled all three free throws to make it a one point game. 

The Mountaineers turned the ball over just eight times and outscored South Florida 10-2 on second chance points. 

"We did a great job controlling the glass considering how long and how physical the South Florida players up front are,"  Huggins said.  

"This is our 20th game against top 100 teams in the RPI and we are 10-10 in those games,"  the coach continued.  "There isn’t any question (the Mountaineers are in the NCAA).  I just told the players that since we are having fun let’s just go into New York and keep winning."    


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