First four: A look back at WVU’s most memorable first-round wins

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No March memories will be made this year, but NCAA tournament history is full of memorable moments for Mountaineer basketball.

Given the shortage of current games to watch, now is the perfect time to look back at West Virginia’s top tournament showings.

We will provide a round-by-round synopsis of the best games, starting with WVU’s four most memorable first-round games.

4. West Virginia 64, Oregon State 62 (March 15, 1984) — Birmingham, Ala.

In the final year before the tournament expanded to 64 teams, there were 13 teams per region — two 12-seeds who played a play-in game, then 11 who qualified without needing to win an extra game.

The Mountaineers were an 11-seed in that field — in other words, one of the tournament’s biggest underdogs.

At the time, Oregon State was one of the Pac-10’s powers. The Beavers were led by future Lakers standout A.C. Green, and would soon recruit Gary Payton to the program.

But it was the Mountaineers who stole the show as guard J.J. Crawl picked off an Oregon State pass with under 10 seconds to go, finishing with a layup on the other end to give West Virginia the win.

Fortunately for WVU, Crawl misinterpreted his instructions on the play. Coach Gale Catlett instructed him to guard the inbounder, but Crawl instead anticipated where it would be thrown.

West Virginia’s tournament run was short-lived, though, as Ben Coleman and Len Bias combined for 37 points to lead Maryland to a 102-77 second-round win.

3. West Virginia 68, Buffalo 62 (March 20, 2015) — Columbus, Ohio

Averaging just 3.8 points per game, Tarik Phillip nailed a crucial three as the shot clock expired with 28 seconds remaining in regulation, providing No. 5 West Virginia with a five-point cushion against the 12th-seeded Bulls.

Upset-minded Buffalo was playing in its first NCAA tournament appearance and never actually held a lead, but a late rally made things more interesting than the Mountaineers would have preferred.

West Virginia once again ended up with a second-round matchup with Maryland, but this time the Mountaineers won to advance to the Sweet 16.

2. West Virginia 75, Arizona 65 (March 20, 2008) — Washington, D.C.

The seventh-seeded Mountaineers made 11 threes in Bob Huggins’ first tournament victory at WVU. By percentage (57.8), it was the second-best three-point shooting performance in West Virginia’s NCAA tourney history. Alex Ruoff hit 5 of 7 three-point attempts and scored a game-high 21 points.

The win over the Wildcats set the stage for a far more memorable West Virginia victory in the second round — an upset over Duke.

1. West Virginia 63, Creighton 61 (March 17, 2005) — Cleveland

Tyrone Sally’s deflection of a Nate Funk three-point attempt, capped off by his dunk on the other end of the floor with 2 seconds left, kick-started the run that would bring West Virginia basketball back to prominence.

The seventh-seeded Mountaineers were shaky early on, falling into a 10-0 hole in the program’s first tournament appearance in seven seasons. Led by Kevin Pittsnogle’s 17 points, West Virginia was up by halftime in a game that fluctuated wildly with each team making big runs.

The thriller over the Bluejays ended up being just the first step in a run that would culminate in West Virginia’s first trip to the Elite Eight since 1959.

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