Lucky Threes In Vegas

West Virginia appeared in danger of dropping their second straight game in the Jim Thorpe Classic in Las Vegas on Sunday evening.

The Mountaineers (8-2) showed no spark or fire for the game's first thirty minutes, and trailed 50-45 with nine minutes to go in the second half. West Virginia's play then turned faster than a roulette wheel, as the Mountaineers ripped off 19 straight points to turn the deficit into a 64-50 lead.

Five three pointers formed the backbone of the run. Kevin Pittsnogle and Patrick Beilein each hit a pair and Joe Herber added another. Gardner Webb appeared shell shocked by the run. The Bulldogs scored only eight points the rest of the way, and were outscored by 22 points over the last nine minute stretch.

"Threes were the difference tonight for us," head coach John Beilein said. "There's a rhythm to our play that we need to establish. We have to make outside shots to make the offense work when teams play us soft on defense."

The Mountaineers tied a season high with nine three pointers, but that wasn't their most impressive nine of the night. West Virginia had only nine turnovers in the contest. The additional chances generated by the low turnover rate kept WVU in the game in the first half, and proved devastating in the second.

The first half was a slow paced and low scoring affair, as neither team shot the ball particularly well. Drew Schifino scored WVU's first four and last four points of the half on his way to ten in the opening period.

Both teams were sluggish in the almost empty arena, trading infrequent scores that resulted in a 19-15 WVU lead. At that point, Gardner-Webb ran off ten straight points, including a pair of three pointers that gave the Bulldogs the lead by six. Gardner Webb was able to retain most of that lead as they went to the locker room trailing by four.

"I think both teams were in the consolation game mode," Beilein said. "I think we were hoping that they wouldn't be as good as the coaches said. I wouldn't have been surprised to lose by ten tonight."

Drew Schifino and Joe Herber tied for WVU scoring honors with 16 points each. Patrick Beilein added eight, including two big three pointers during the run. Tyrone Sally was a defensive force from the point of WVU's 1-3-1 defense, tipping several balls to create steals and disrupt the Bulldogs' offense.

West Virginia will retun home to Morgantown on Monday before returning to the road against St. Louis this Saturday for a 2:10 contest against the Billikens.

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