Season Saver

If there ever was a season saver, this was it. Down by double-digits in the first half to lowly Providence, West Virginia could've simply given up.

Its season would be over and any chance at the NCAA tournament would be all but gone.

West Virginia's most-veteran players wouldn't let it happen. Senior guard Truck Bryant, senior forward Kevin Jones and junior forward Deniz Kilicli combined to score 74 of the team's points in an 87-84 overtime victory at Providence.

It probably saved the season.

After losing three games in a row for the first time in head coach Bob Huggins' tenure at WVU, the Mountaineers finally got on the right side of the win/loss column.

Following the loss to Pittsburgh last Monday, Bryant and Jones told me they had to brainstorm ways to get out of the slump. If it continued, they knew it would be tough to get out of.

That made Sunday's game vs. the Friars so important for confidence. Leadership was tested – and Bryant, Jones and Kilicli came through.

West Virginia looked like a different team in the first half – like it was already on a three-game losing streak and about to lose three or four more.

The Mountaineers allowed Providence to shoot 63 percent in the first half and was still able to only go into the half down by six.

WVU could've easily let this game go when it was 32-17, but it didn't. I don't expect West Virginia to win the rest of its regular season games because of this victory, but it sure does help get it get back on track – something that might be even more important.

WVU had so many struggles to get the game back to one possession, but with less that four minutes left, it finally was able to do so.

Down by seven, Bryant hit two free throws and then might have made the biggest play of the game. He stole the ball from a Providence player who wasn't paying attention and went down for the dunk to make it 70-67.

WVU cut it to one on a Kilicli putback and then on another free throw from Kilicli, as well.

Finally, the Mountaineers were able to tie it with 1:34 for the first time since it was tied at 9-9 on a Kilicli layup.

After the tying basket, Providence's Gerard Coleman hit a putback after missing his first shot to make it a two-point game. Jones missed a 3-pointer on the other end.

After a foul, Providence hit one of two free throws to make it a three-point game with 26.6 seconds left at 75-72.

WVU called a timeout, and out of it got a putback layup by Jones to make it a one-point game.

Following another foul and a free throw by the Friars, Bryant came down the court and scored a layup with just four seconds left to tie it at 76.

Providence guard Vincent Council missed a deep contested three at the buzzer to send the game to overtime – the fifth overtime of the season for the Mountaineers.

In the overtime – perhaps the fastest overtime in college basketball history it seemed – Kilicli scored to give the Mountaineers their first lead since it was 7-6 to make it 78-76.

Back-and-forth action eventually led to a three from LaDontae Henton to take back an 83-82 lead over the Mountaineers before a Kilicli hook shot gave WVU the lead back at 84-83.

Following a defensive stop by West Virginia, Jones missed a layup to give Providence a chance to win it with one last possession.

WVU fouled Coleman, but he made just one to tie the game at 84. Bryant would hit the huge three to win it on the other end.

It was a shot that saved the Mountaineers' season.

Now, it's on to the next one. Notre Dame and Louisville come calling later this week.


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