Among the Elite

Call it luck. Call it getting hot at the right time. Call it the luck of the draw or call it a dream. West Virginia's Mountaineers really don't care what you call their late-season run, but after a 65-60 win over Bobby Knight's Texas Tech squad, you better call WVU members of basketball's Elite Eight.

The contest looked like a battle of David versus Goliath in the minutes before the game, especially when Texas Tech came out in Bobby Knight's trademark Texas Tech pinstripe warmup pants to a roar that could be heard across the desert. The Red Raider faithful made the 300-plus mile journey to Albuquerque in droves, and they were prepared to witness their team and their legendary coach make its first-ever trip to the Elite Eight.

West Virginia, though, wasted no time proving that it was not going to be easily denied of its own dreams and its first Elite Eight appearance under the current 64-team format. Kevin Pittsnogle knew full well the importance of this game to his state, and he came out with all guns firing, scoring WVU's first eight points. Tyrone Sally joined the party with a three of his own, and four minutes into the game the underdog Mountaineers clinging to a 10-8 lead and to a dream that they refused to let go.

Over the next four minutes, the Mountaineers went on one of their patented runs that had allowed them to slip on the Cinderella slippers game after game. At Patrick Beilein three began West Virginia's aerial assault, and then Gansey caught fire with three-straight bombs of his own. His third, a stepback shot in the face of a Texas Tech defender, gave the Mountaineers a 22-14 lead, and the smaller contingent of WVU fans began to be heard throughout The Pitt.

Texas Tech, though, put the Mountaineer fans back in their seats after a break for a media timeout. West Virginia would score just two points over the next 9:03, and with just under three minutes to play in the opening half a Curtis Martin three put the No. 6 seeded Red Raiders on top 26-24.

West Virginia would not exactly light the scoreboard up in the final three minutes, but a J.D. Collins three and a D'or Fischer jumper did tie the game up, and the two teams headed to the locker room knotted up at 32-32.

Although sitting even with Texas Tech was not the worst place to be, the Mountaineers had to feel as though the situation could have been much better. An uncharacteristic seven turnovers and a 1-for-5 mark at the charity stripe left many WVU supporters wondering where the fundamental play that had pulled this team so far had gone.

The second half would start with West Virginia outscoring Texas Tech 8-4, and at the first media timeout at 15:55 the Mountaineers led 40-36. The Red Raiders quickly battled back and after Fischer's dunk attempt came up empty Marshall found an old-fashioned three point play at the other end and Coach Knight's team took a 47-44 advantage.

Tech, though, would not be able to extend the lead any further as West Virginia dodged a couple of potential bullets with a Frank Young putback and a Fischer dunk that came as a result of a loose-ball scramble. With 10:16 left to play, Beilein's difficult three put West Virginia ahead 51-49, and it would be a fight to the finish from that point on.

Tied at 53-53 as the clock ticked under seven minutes, Pittsnogle drained a three that put the Mountaineers ahead to stay. Pittsnogle added to his totals with a pair of free throws, and West Virginia was up 62-55 and less than four minutes away from continuing its postseason dreams.

Those dreams nearly came crashing down after two shot clock violations led to easy Texas Tech buckets at the other end, and with 1:17 showing on the clock at The Pitt, the Red Raiders were well within striking distance at 62-20.

A Texas Tech steal with less than a minute to play made Mountaineer fans gasp, but Sally came up with a big block to keep the Red Raiders from tying the score. The ball stayed with Tech, but after three straight misses in the paint, Beilein came away with a loose ball after a mad scramble and called timeout with 30.5 seconds left on the clock.

The Red Raiders attempted to trap the Mountaineers in the backcourt, but West Virginia broke the press and Texas Tech fouled Kevin Pittsnogle with 17.6 seconds to play. Following a Tech timeout, the lanky junior swished both ends of a one-and-one to give WVU a four-point lead.

Tech still had time to respond, but a Ronald Ross field goal attempt was unsuccessful, and D'or Fischer grabbed the rebound with 4.4 seconds to play to secure the win.

"I think I've overused the word thrilled in the three times already about what this is, but that is the best word I use that can describe it for our university," said Coach Beilein. "Texas Tech has a fine team and we turned the ball over a little bit. For us to still fight through that and execute enough to win the game was huge."

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