"When you lose your confidence, you just needed something magic to happen," head coach John Beilein noted. "Something like D'or's tap in or Joe's three. That happens, and then you get a bounce in your step."
Although the Hurricanes managed to come back more than once to take the lead in each half, WVU refused to crumble as they have in past contests. The Mountaineers had an answer for every Miami threat, and ended up making the big plays down the stretch that gave them the win.
The game opened with a familiar pattern, as WVU jumped out to an early lead while the Hurricanes struggled to solve West Virginia's 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones. The Mountaineers made a couple of changes in their 1-3-1 by extending their traps at the top of the zone and bringing their baseline defender out to trap on the wing, and those modifications befuddled the Miami offense.
The Mountaineers jumped out to a 9-3 lead, then saw Miami roar back to go ahead 12-11. WVU made the first of their many responses, however, going on an 8-0 run of their own to move ahead 19-12. D'or Fischer had seven of his points in the early going to spark WVU.
Miami then bounced back with a 9-2 spurt to tie the game at 21, but West Virginia finished strongly with a Tyrone Sally jumper and a Joe Herber layup to grab a three-point lead at the half. Sally's hoop was doubly satisfying, as it came after a trip to the locker room to tend to a sprained left ankle that kept him out of the game for several minutes.
The second half was a repeat of this pattern, with the Mountaineers moving out to leads of eight points on two different occasions, only to see the Hurricanes bounce back.
Miami finally managed to take the lead at 49-48 on the strength of Darius Rice, who engaged in a three-point shooting contest with Kevin Pittsnogle (each player made two ove the span of just 1:29) before making a free throw to give the Canes a one point advantage. That was followed by a Robert Hite dunk that put the home team up by three with less than six minutes to go, but Joe Herber, who recorded ten assists on the night, hit a clutch three-pointer to reknot the game at 51.
Another tie at 53 followed before D'or Fischer snared a Patrick Beilein miss and laid in a shot to give WVU a 55-53 lead with two minutes to go. The Mountaineers then clamped down defensively and didn't allow the Canes a good look at the basket the rest of the way. A free throw by Tyrone Sally and two more by Patrick Beilein gave the Mountaineers their final total.
West Virginia's front line scored 49 of the Mountianeers' 58 points. Fischer and Pittsnogle (5-6 on three-pointers) each had 19 points, while Tyrone Sally recorded a double double with 11 points and ten rebounds. Joe Herber had seven points to go with his ten assists, and Beilein had two points to close out the scoring.
"This was not a game for Tyler Relph and Frank Young in the second half," John Beilien observed afterward. "That's not to slight them. We just felt this was a time to go with our starters."
West Virginia shot 52% from the field, but hit just six of their 19 attempts from three point range. The Mountaineers had 18 assists on their 22 made baskets.
The Mountaineers will now face either Seton Hall or Notre Dame in the first round of the Big East tournament at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 10. The Mountaineers will face either Notre Dame or Seton Hall on ESPN.