Starting a game against the No. 7 team in the country with your top scorer sitting in the locker room with flu-like symptoms is not exactly a desirable situation for any team to be put in, but that is exactly what West Virginia was looking at when the digital clock in Madison Square Garden read 12:00.
But this is not a team that fears adversity. With or without Tyrone Sally, WVU was determined that it had something to prove, and it went to work on a mission to prove itself to its few remaining doubters.
"We found out at 8 o'clock this morning that Tyrone was questionable," said WVU junior guard Patrick Beilein. "Tyrone does so much for us and not having him out there is tough. But we wanted to give him a chance to play here again."
Less than three minutes into the contest, it became clear that West Virginia had no plans of sitting around and pouting about its sidelined senior leader. Two Mike Gansey threes and a Pittsnogle layup put the Mountaineers up 8-2, quickly erasing any letdown that might have come from the announcement of Sally's absence.
Then it was Frank Young's turn. Earning his first career start in place of Sally, Young led the entire team with 13 first-half points, and he also scrapped for a rebound and a steal.
"I tried not to show my nerves, but I was a little nervous out there," admitted the Tallahassee, Fla. product. "I just wanted to stay within the team concept and shoot open shots. I felt a little weight on my shoulders but not a lot. I didn't think I needed to score 20 points or get 12 rebounds or anything like that. I just needed to go out, play my game and help the team any way I could."
Frank's contribution, though, was a little more than expected.
"He hasn't played a lot because we have a great senior in Tyrone, but he really played great when he got a chance on this stage," said Pat Beilein. "He stepped up big for us, just like we knew he would.
But Frank was certainly not alone. Mike Gansey's 12 points and a spirited defensive effort kept the Eagles off balance for the entire half, and WVU's lead continued to swell. At the 5:29 mark the West Virginia advantage was 16, and by the end of the half Young's three from the corner gave the Mountaineers their largest lead of the game at 44-22.
"It was definitely a very good first half," admitted WVU coach John Beilein's oldest son. "We played a great first half at LSU as well, but on this stage, this one was definitely the biggest. I will take that any time."
As any basketball fan knows, however, good teams usually make a run, and Boston College did not put up a 24-3 regular season mark for no reason. The Mountaineers knew they were going to be in a dog fight for the final 20 minutes, and they turned out to be correct.
After Mike Gansey started the second frame with an old fashioned three-point play to stretch West Virginia's advantage to 25, Boston College's pressure defense began to create some turnovers and chip away at the WVU lead. At the first media timeout the advantage was 50-30, and it would only shrink from their.
Back-to-back Jared Dudley dunks, resulting from some sloppy West Virginia ball handling had the lead down to 14 at 50-36 with 13:15 left on the clock. The predominately pro-West Virginia crowd was starting to worry and a once vocal crowd was suddenly sitting on its hands.
The run was not over yet. While West Virginia continued to struggle to find even the smallest opening for a shot, Dudley continued its aggressive attack, and forced the Mountaineers into a number of unforced errors. Two straight steals, resulting in three easy points for the Eagles made the score 60-55 with 5:36 and the momentum was definitely on Boston College's side.
"We probably were playing the worst basketball we have this season," admitted Patrick Beilein, speaking of the Boston College run. "It was unbelievable. We would get a rebound and then turn the ball over, we got called for walks and we couldn't even get the ball in bounds. It was just very frustrating, and it felt like we were playing not to make mistakes."
Big East Coach of the Year Al Skinner's squad would get as close as four at 62-58, but J.D. Collins ended a 14-4 Boston College run, and Kevin Pittsnogle, as he has done quite often down the stretch put the nail in the coffin with a long three.
With 3:16 on the clock West Virginia's lead was back to double-figures and Madison Square Garden began to be filled with mock chants of "ACC" directed towards the Eagles.
The final three minutes were a Big East celebration for everyone in attendance, as the Big East loyalists sent Boston College out the door with a going away "overrated" chant.
"It is a great feeling to come here, play against a good team and prove that we are a good team," said Kevin Pittsnogle, who continued his tournament tear with 17 points. "We hade some troubles, but we are having a lot of fun. We knew coming into Today that Ty was going to be sick, and we wanted this one for him."
The win earns West Virginia a spot in the semifinal round against the winner of the Pitt/Villanova quarterfinal matchup.