Narrow Escape

The familiar duo of Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle helped West Virginia snap a three-game losing streak as they combined for 48 points in WVU's 66-61 win over St. Bonaventure in Rochester, N.Y on Wednesday night, but it wasn't an easy trip for the Mountaineers.

After building an early 20-point lead in the second half, WVU saw St. Bonaventure respond with a 21-0 run over the middle eight minutes to put the Mountaineers behind at 46-45.

Gansey, playing his typical all around game, tallied 28 points and nine rebounds on the evening, while Pittsnogle showed a new dimension to his offensive game by slicing inside off screens for several layups on his way to 20 points. The pair's domination was shown in a stretch encompassing the end of the first half and the start of the second, when they combined to score 18 consecutive points for the Mountaineers. Leading just 24-19 late in the opening period, the pair's tear staked WVU to a 42-25 lead.

That spurt was immediately countered by the Bonnies, however, and in spectacular fashion. After a J.D. Collins three-pointer put WVU up by 20, St. Bonaventure ripped off 21 consecutive points over the next eight minutes to take the lead by one. The run coincided with Joe Herber's departure from the floor with his third foul, after which West Virginia's offense did not function with its typical fluidity.

"They charged back and made an incredible run," a relieved head coach John Beilein said afterward. "All of a sudden they made a couple of shots and we missed a couple, and then we had three straight turnovers, and that just lit the building up. We used two timeouts, had media timeouts and couldn't stop it. [But] we had the resilience of a veteran team to come back."

Fueling the run was St. Bonaventure's transition game, which consistently beat WVU down the court. SBU got several points in the run off open midrange shots that were mostly uncontested by the lagging Mountaineer defense. Some of that could be attributed to the high minutes logged by West Virginia's stalwarts, as both Pittsnogle and Gansey played 36 of the forty possible.

After yielding the tremendous run, it was again Gansey who came to the rescue. The springy forward, who has been troubled by back spasms, shook off the problem to score five straight points to put the Mountaineers back in front at 50-46. And although WVU did not put the game away until the final seconds, the Mountaineers likewise never again relinquished the lead in the closing minutes. St. Bonaventure was able to cut WVU's lead to two and 57-55 and one at 59-58, but baskets by Patrick Beilein and Kevin Pittsnogle gave West Virginia enough breathing room to get the win.

"It was a team effort, we didn't shoot the ball great, but we made some big ones," said John Beilein of West Virginia's marksmanship, which totaled just 42% from the field and 31% from three-point range. "They did so many different things [on defense] that kept us off balance. We're just fortuitous today that we played well enough, and good enough defense in the first half, to come out with a win."

In the opening half, West Virginia's 1-3-1 defense gave the Bonnies fits, holding the home team to just 21 points. St. Bonaventure came in shooting nearly 50% from the field, but were unable to consistently crack the Mountaineers' signature defense. SBU was just 2-10 from three-point range

West Virginia had several chances to pull away in the opening 20 minutes, but shaky three-point shooting again crimped their efforts, as the Mountaineers hit just four of 17 tries from beyond the arc. Mike Gansey, battling back spasms, had fifteen of WVU's 31 first half points, as well as seven rebounds. Gansey was supported by Kevin Pittsnogle's nine, but other than that assistance from the rest of the Mountaineer squad was scarce.

West Virginia, now 3-3 on the season, returns home to face Washington & Jefferson on Saturday in a 4:00 p.m. tip.

Freshman forward Joe Alexander did not make the trip due to violation of team rules, but head coach John Beilein expects him to be available for the W&J contest

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