Then 5-5 UT made its trademark move, a late run similar to the one that cost WVU (7-2) last season's game, a 69-68 loss in the Coliseum.
"Good teams don't let people have runs on them," UT first-year head coach Buzz Peterson said.
He was talking about Tennessee, but he might as well have meant West Virginia. The Vols needed an 11-2 run over 3:40 to take their first lead since the 17:09 mark. But a man's reach should exceed his grasp, and Hargett, hardly feeling it at three for 11 from three-point distance, proved it in the end, though by the slimmest of margins.
UT players smothering him, Hargett felt the ball smack away. It was tied up, and possession went to Tennessee. Rookie mistake.
"Hargett is a feel player," WVU head coach Gale Catlett said. "He plays by feel."
With 18.6 seconds left Marcus Haislip hit a short jumper to give the Volunteers the lead, 72-71. Momentum and the crowd were both on UT's side, and it seemed WVU was wondering, lost without a leader.
Catlett took a timeout and scribbled on his pad, but everyone in the arena knew who would take the shot.
"I knew they were going to get the ball to him," Grindstaff said of Hargett. "They've been running that same play. He's just hard to stop."
Grindstaff was there.
Hargett dribbled through his legs, feigned penetration, then flipped the ball into a shooting position.
Grindstaff timed his leap correctly, put a hand in Hargett's face after the freshman pulled open in the corner. Both jumped, Grindstaff a split second late.
The arching shot swished through with 4.3 seconds left.
Grindstaff grabbed the inbounds and started upcourt, trying to get off a desperation three-pointer. It hit the backboard with a thud and fell away.
West Virginia 74, Tennessee 72. Hargett, the magician, had waved the wand again, though whether it is chance or skill is yet to be determined.
The magic showed when he lifted WVU to an early upset win over against New Mexico with a late three-pointer. It seemed to be gone, lost in the mire of a two for 14 shooting performance last game against Duquesne.
But it broke through again Saturday, though, just fast enough to win another huge game for the Mountaineers and save both face and momentum going into potentially bigger road games.
"That's what he does," WVU shooting guard Lionel Armstead, who had to play the point when Hargett was out, said. "He plays like that, that's his style, his thing."
Said Catlett: "I didn't tell him to shoot a three. He's a winner, a game player. He has been a winner all his life."
He's dragging West Virginia along for his ride. It looked glum when power forward Chris Moss, who finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, was called for charging, his fourth foul, with 3:59 remaining. He was taken out, and the Vols attacked WVU inside. Ron Slay hit a layup and was fouled by John Oliver.
That was his fifth, and Slay converted the free throws. On the next series Grindstaff caught Moss in the air with a head fake and drew a foul. It was Moss' fifth. "I knew I shouldn't have jumped," Moss said. "It was torture. I knew I would come down on him for my fifth foul, and that would be it."
Grindstaff hit two free throws as Moss watched. "Oliver and Moss foul out and I have my two seniors on the bench," Catlett said. "That wasn't fun."
Except for Slay, who stole haphazard a pass and was fouled going to the basket. He made both free throws, then dunked on the next possession on an undersized WVU defense. WVU had scored just two points -- Hargett free throws -- during the run.
It was all they would need to keep the game close enough to win.
Hargett finished with 20 points, tying the team high with Armstead. Lionel was eight for 12, however, and four of six from behind the arc. Hargett finished four of 17 and four of 12.
The first half saw eight lead changes and five ties. WVU, with the game tied at 23-23, put together a 7-0 run to lead 30-23. Hargett had a three-pointer and Moss scored twice in the run.
UT answered, but the Mountaineers kept scoring as well, and managed a 36-30 edge before Tennessee ripped off eight straight points to lead 38-36 at the half. Vincent Yarbrough, the Vols' best player, had three points in the spurt. Those were the last he would score, except for one free throw in the second half. He finished with 14 quiet points.
WVU battled early in the last 20 minutes, scoring nine points on a pair of three-pointers from Hargett and Armstead and Moss' inside game. UT answered and led 47-40 before Hargett hit his second three in under one minute and Josh Yeager added a putback to finish a 10-0 run that gave the Mountaineers a 50-47 lead.
The squads then seesawed as WVU started to gain momentum. Chas Briggs had a dunk off Hargett's behind-the-head pass for an assist, and Armstead and Moss added nine points together. That left West Virginia with a 69-61 lead they would slowly lose in the final 3:59.
The Volunteers had four players in double figures, led by Slay's 23. Haislip and Thaydeus Holden added 10, respectively. WVU had a 41-28 edge on the boards and made nine of 20 three-pointers. UT died by the three, hitting just three of 22 (13.6 percent), a large reason they lost the rebounding battle and, conversely, the game.
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