WVU Downs #20 Colonials

Ladies and gentlemen of the Mountaineer nation, you have yourselves a basketball team. Keyed by a hot start to the second half, and clutch defense down the stretch, the Mountaineer men's basketball team toppled the nationally ranked George Washington Colonials 71-65 to improve to 9-0 on the season. That start is the best since the 1959-60 season when some guy named West played for the Blue and Gold.

Leading the way for the Mountaineers was junior forward Mike Gansey, who was again all over the court on his way to a game-high 19 points to go along with his seven rebounds. Senior center D'Or Fischer chipped in with 15, including going 9-10 from the free throw line. Also helping out the home team was a raucous crowd of 13,956. The win snapped a skid in which the Mountaineers were 0-7 in front of home crowds of 10,000 or more.

The game started off with both teams playing great team defense, and at the first media timeout the score was just 4-3 in favor of the Colonials. The rest of the first half was more of the same, but Gansey and his teammates managed to scrap and claw their way to a 32-26 halftime lead.

Coming out of the locker room, though, the Mountaineers started hot. First it was a three from the corner by Jo Herber. Then, after an Herber steal, Fischer made a nifty move to get to the basket and lay it in. The quick 5-0 run led to a GW timeout, but that didn't stop the Mountaineers. Out of the timeout, the Colonials missed a basket, the ball was fired down the floor to Gansey, who promptly drilled a three pointer that hit nothing but net. George Washington got a lay up at the other end, but Tyrone Sally answered that with a three pointer to give the Mountaineers their largest lead of the game at 43-28.

The hot start gave the Mountaineers just enough of a cushion, because the Colonials tightened up their defense for the remainder of the contest. A jumper in the lane by Kevin Pittsnogle at the 12:56 mark put the home team up by 11, but the Mountaineers wouldn't make another shot from the field until 2:41 remained in the game, and GW had trimmed the lead to but a single point.

During the drought from the field, GW pounded the ball inside and ended up fouling out Sally with over four and a half minutes left to play.

When West Virginia needed it most though, the defense stepped up and delivered the biggest win of the season. Colonial point guard T.J. Thompson buzzed down the court, out of control, and badly missed a runner. Patrick Beilein corralled the rebound, and fired the ball past mid-court to a wide open Gansey who did the rest to put the Mountaineers back up by three. On the next possession, GW again trimmed the deficit to a point on a Carl Elliot jumper. J.D. Collins found Fischer under the basket, and the big man threw it down with authority. The Mountaineers never looked back, and the only question remaining unanswered was whether they would reach the 70 point mark for the ninth time in as many tries this season. A pair of Fischer free throws took care of that, and as the horn sounded the Mountaineers walked off the court with a win over a team whose only previous loss was to then top-ranked Wake Forest.

We had seen this script before: the Mountaineers hang with a quality opponent, even building up a lead, only to fade down the stretch due to poor foul shooting, among other things. Tonight though, the Mountaineers stared into the face of adversity. Their senior leading scorer had fouled out. Patrick Beilein, the team's best shooter, was 0-6 from downtown and passed up several open looks in the second half perhaps due to lost confidence. A 10 minute drought from the field further complicated matters. Yet through it all, this team sucked it up, and got what it deserved: a win over a top 25 team. Yes, it's true. This team is for real.

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