Clutch Again

When it comes down to it, West Virginia has been more clutch than good at times this season. That was the deal on Saturday against Cincinnati. The Mountaineers used clutch shooting and defense to defeat the Bearcats 77-74 in overtime. WVU is now tied for second in the Big East Conference.

"The talent has always been there, it was just when it was going to start clicking," said senior forward Kevin Jones. "I think it's starting to click now.

With 12 seconds to play following a timeout, the Mountaineers looked to get the ball to its two biggest shot makers – Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant – but freshman point guard Gary Browne pulled up for a deep three to tie the game at 69.

"Nobody was open, so it was my time to step up, and I did a great job," Browne said. "My teammates had confidence in me."

Following the shot, West Virginia allowed Cincinnati guard Dion Dixon to the rim, but he missed what seemed to be an easy dunk and Jones pulled down the rebound.

He passed the ball to Bryant, but in an attempt to dribble the other way, he lost it and had to fight to get the ball back. After a scrum on the floor, the clock stopping and Jones calling a timeout that WVU didn't have, the game went to overtime somehow.

After allowing more than 43 percent shooting in both the first and second halves, WVU held Cincinnati to just 20 percent shooting in overtime.

"We made up in our minds that we weren't going to lose," Jones said. "Everybody made a team effort to defend and rebound."

In that final five-minute period, Jones and Hinds hit two free throws, Browne stole a pass and hit a clutch layup and Kilicli scored on a hook shot when he wasn't doubled.

WVU found a way to win … again.

So far this year, the Mountaineers are 3-1 in overtime games and 1-0 in double-overtime games.

"At the beginning of the season, if you would've told me that we'd be that strong in overtime games, I wouldn't believe you," Jones said. "You can see how much more mentally prepared we are from the start of the season and how much more mature you are."

The lone overtime loss came against then-No. 6 Baylor – the same team that was still undefeated until last week.

Sure, the Mountaineers should have played better down the stretch vs. Baylor and up by 10 points with 11 minutes to play vs. Connecticut, but in the bigger scheme of things, I'm sure WVU is pretty happy with the results so far.

Will this game propel West Virginia to bigger and better things? Maybe.

This felt like the type of game where the winner would get a boost and the loser would start to fall flat.

There's a tough stretch coming up for WVU. Without this win, I would fear a bit. Now, the Mountaineers will be fine.

Despite being so young, WVU has shown the character and maturity of veteran teams, especially in late-situation games.


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