Rding the slender shoulders of Mike Gansey, who during one stretch scored eight consecutive points, the Mountaineers ran out to a 30-16 lead against the turnover-plagued Friars (9-10, 0-6). Gansey's 17 first half points helped WVU to a 44-32 lead at the half.
It looked like more of the same in the second, as Tyrone Sally scored seven of WVU's first 14 points of the half. By the ten minute mark, WVU led 61-45, and it looked as if a rather easy win was in the offing.
It was at that point, however, that the Mountaineers (12-6, 2-5) came unglued in the face of the Providence press. Attempting to make plays that would get a junior-high schooler yanked, WVU quickly turne a 16-point lead into a four point advantage at 71-67. The Mountaineers tried to dribble through double and triple-teams, threw soft cross court passes, and failed to attack the basket while the Friars drew close.
On the defensive end, the Mountaineers, who had held Providence All-American Ryan Gomes in check for much of the game, suddenly began treating the Providence star as if he had a communicable disease. Gomes scored 12 of PC's final 14 points, many on uncontested shots in the paint. However, Providence couldn't get any closer than four points down the stretch.
In the end, it was free throw shooting which made the difference. WVU was 17-22 from the line, as opposed to PCs 11-18. The Mountaineers won it in the last four minutes, when they went 14-18 from the line. Freshman Darris Nichols sealed the win with two free throws with just four seconds to go. Those clutch shots gave WVU an insurmountable four point lead.
"It probably wasn't pretty at times, but it was a win," a relieved coach John Beilein said afterward. "It was certainly a great win at a badly needed time."
Tyrone Sally led WVU with 20 points. Mike Gansey had 19, and Patrick Beilein tallied 14. WVU overcame a horrendous 23 turnovers, partly due to the fact that the Friars totalled 27. Gansey had seven giveaways and Joe Herber six.
While both teams gave the ball away like the plague, they shot it well when they managed to hang on to it. The Friars were 30-53 from the field (57%), while WVU countered with a 27-49 (55%) mark. West Virginia was also a sterling 50% 11-22 from three point range.
WVU will stay in New England thorugh the weekend, and travel north to Beantown to face Boston College on Tuesday.