Lucky No More

It took the luck of the Irish for West Virginia to finally beat Notre Dame. The No. 11 Mountaineers blew a double-digit lead for the third time in four games, but again held on to win, 71-70, after Chris Quinn's jumper missed at the buzzer on Wednesday.

The game unfolded in similar fashion to WVU's past 11 games against Notre Dame – namely that the Mountaineers would again lose a tight contest. This time, though, Notre Dame's luck of late again hurt the Irish (10-9, 1-7 Big East) as it lost for the third time in as many games against ranked teams and the seventh time in eight Big East games – all by a combined 23 points and none by any more than six.

"You need to hit a runner there," Irish coach Mike Brey said. "You need to be a little lucky and hit that there."

The good look came after Notre Dame rallied from down 71-65 in the final minute on consecutive baskets but could again not seal a win.

The victory brought redemption for first-place West Virginia (16-4, 7-0), which had been winless against Notre Dame under fourth-year coach John Beilein. WVU is off to its best-ever Big East start and its best start overall since the 1997-98 team started 19-3.

"Tonight's game wasn't about who had better players or better coaches," Beilein said. "That shot was all about luck. We had some good luck and they had some bad."

Indeed, it was WVU's seventh straight win to start Big East play, its best ever beginning. Just 15 league teams all-time had ever started 6-0.

"In past year's we've lost to them on last-minute shots," said Kevin Pittsnogle, who led WVU with 22 points. "We were just hoping it would not go in."

Mike Gansey added 13 points for the Mountaineers, who again squandered a big early lead as they had in road wins against UCLA and St. John's. WVU led by 15 twice in the first half before Notre Dame hit five 3-pointers in the final six minutes, including Quinn's 24-footer at the buzzer to bring the Irish within 39-35 at the break.

The teams combined to go 15 of 27 from behind the arc in the opening period. Both teams had made 10 3-pointers by the 11-minute mark of the second half.

Notre Dame took its first lead, 41-39, on Rick Cornett's lay-in with 18:27 to play for the first of just four lead changes in the game. West Virginia then used a 5-1 spurt on Pittsnogle's basket and Frank Young's 3-pointer to lead 44-42 with 17:09 remaining. Notre Dame took its final edge on Russell Carter's 3-pointer with five minutes left. WVU then used seven straight team points by Pittsnogle to lead 68-65 before Jo Herber hit a basket and a free throw for the 71-65 advantage in the final minute.

"Tonight was one of those games that you just grind out every possession," said Gansey, who noted WVU was getting tired because of the cross-country trip to UCLA and games against Marshall and at St. John's. "Hopefully we can get some rest because we will have tight games the rest of the way."

Quinn scored a game-high 24 points and Colin Falls added 18 points as he and Quinn combined to hit 12 of the Irish's 14 3-pointers. WVU made 12, just the second time the Mountaineers, Big East leaders in 3-pointers per game, have been outshot and won. It was just the fourth time an opponent has made more 3-pointers than West Virginia in a game this season.

"That's the guy we wanted taking the shot," Brey said of Quinn. "He made all the plays for us, and he wanted the ball again. But we're just not as old as some of the teams that have come in here and won."

Notre Dame had 10 first half turnovers, four in the first 4:15, when it was held scoreless. It had 15 turnovers for the game. WVU, last place in the Big East in rebounding margin, had 22 rebounds to the Irish's 41.

Notre Dame, now in last place and with a nationally-televised game at Louisville coming up, might not make the Big East Tournament for the first time under Brey, in his sixth year. It was the first time Brey lost to WVU, which last beat the Irish in 1998-99, and the first time he has lost four in a row at Notre Dame.

"There is no difference in Notre Dame and the top of the league," Beilein said. "One shot makes, one shot misses. That's the ball game."

Herber broke Lester Rowe's WVU record for consecutive starts with 115. Chris Brooks (1988-91) has the record for most career starts with 118.

WVU celebrated the football team's Sugar Bowl win at halftime. The Mountaineer seniors finished their four years as the winningest class in the history of West Virginia football. Gov. Joe Manchin's son, Joe Manchin IIII, sang the national anthem.

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