With the shot clock winding down, Ahmad connected on a three from the right corner to give WVU momentum and the lead for good at 58-55. Tarik Phillip then hit a driving lay-in around a pair of missed UVA threes, and the Mountaineers went 6-of-6 at the foul line over the final 27 seconds to secure the win.
It was the first road win over a Top 10 team since 2010 for West Virginia, which also snapped Virginia's 24-game home winning streak, the fifth-longest mark in the country.
"We made some perimeter shots and they had to respect that," WVU head coach Bob Huggins said on the MSN by IMG postgame radio show. "Esa's is maybe the shot of the game."
If not the season thus far for the Mountaineers (6-1). Just a week after being upset by Temple in the NIT Season Tip-Off, West Virginia got back on track in a battle of philosophies that featured 15 lead changes and five ties. The Mountaineers pressured a reliable UVA team into 14 turnovers while managing to commit just eight themselves, and were able to force the Cavaliers out of their vaunted pack line defense via timely shooting from three-point range.
"We want to turn them over more than that, but they did a great job and they have good players and he's a great coach," Huggins said of UVA's Tony Bennett. "I told our guys that we can beat anybody in the country, but we can't turn it over. If we are going to beat anybody, we have to take care of the ball. We did so much better at that today."
Besides Ahmad's bucket, Lamont West hit a huge three from the right wing spot after Jevon Carter drew the defense in on a drive to go ahead 52-49 with 4:36 left. The shot was one of just three field goals over the final five minutes for the Mountaineers, who only made 4-of-15 threes the entire game. Carter led WVU with 11 points and five assists, while Nate Adrian scored 10 and grabbed five rebounds. Ahmad hit for nine points and seven rebounds. They all combined for a 13-for-13 performance from the line, part of a 16-of-19 showing from the stripe overall.
"We probably had the right guys at the line, which helps," Huggins said. "And we shorted our rotation. It's hard to run things with those freshmen. I thought we really got stagnant on offense and they were overhelping. We thought we could get Lamont a shot, and he made it. The play that J.C. makes to him in the corner is a get penetrate and pitch. They watch film. They know they are going to overhelp, and that's how they hold people to a low percentage. We wanted to take advantage as best they could when they overhelped."
The game went back and forth the entire second half after the opening 20 minutes were centered around runs. Virginia controlled the initial play, forcing WVU into a halfcourt style while being able to create open looks on offense. UVA hit a pair of threes early, triggering a 17-6 lead over the first eight minutes before the Mountaineers regrouped to close the gap via a 16-6 run. Getting his first start of the season, Daxter Miles started the run with a three-pointer and also hit a jumpshot before being ejected with 2:42 left after throwing an elbow into Isaiah Wilkins.
"He went to block out and swung his arm and caught the guy in the mouth," Huggins said. "It was a block out, but the rules are the rules."
The sequence had the potential for major points for the Cavaliers (7-1), but Wilkins missed both free throws before London Perrantes misfired on a three. That's five points left off the board, and it allowed WVU to stay close over the final two-plus minutes. The Mountaineers even took a brief lead at 24-23 on a Teyvon Myers jumper with 29 seconds left before UVA center Jack Salt hit a lay-up for the 25-24 margin at the break. West Virginia missed seven of its eight three-point tries in the half and was outshot 43 percent to 37 percent. The Mountaineers were also outrebounded and outscored in bench points, each by one. Miles hit all three of his first-half shots, and had a team-best seven points. Perrantes, hounded by Carter all game, finished with just six points on 2-of-10 shooting. He missed 6-of-7 threes and was held more than eight points below his season average.
"J.C. is a pretty good defender," Huggins said. "He has great feet and does a great job of keeping people in front of him. It's primarily JC."