Latest News, WVPA Sharing

WVU outlasts Bucknell to advance in tournament


Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.  — This time there was a celebration.

A year ago West Virginia’s NCAA Tournament stay ended in stunned silence after being upset in Brooklyn by Stephen F. Austin, but this time, stronger from the experience, the veteran Mountaineers survived a determined upset bid from underdog Bucknell, pulling out an 86-80 victory.

The Mountaineers now move into the second round of the NCAAs against a bitter old Big East rival, Notre Dame, and it’s veteran coach, Mike Brey, who defeated Princeton, 60-58, in a hard-fought, low-scoring battle.

Notre Dame is 26-9 and will play the 27-8 Mountaineers on Saturday at a time to be determined.

There were almost too many heroes to count for WVU, headed by hometown hero Nathan Adrian, who put together a double-double with 12 hard-earned, well-timed points and 10 rebounds.

The rebounding was crucial, as it has been all season for Adrian.

“I’ve come a long way,” he admitted. “We lost a lot of rebounding with Jon (Holton) and Devin (Williams) last year, so I knew someone had to step up and go get those, and I feel I’ve done a decent job at it.”

It mattered a lot in this one for WVU held a 42-32 rebounding edge over the Bison, collecting 17 offensive boards.

“We knew coming in that offensive rebounding was part of their game plan,” said Bucknell guard Stephen Brown, who scored 18 points. “Our goal was limit them to one shot only, to get the rebound, and get out from beating the press, but down the stretch, you saw that they got a lot of second-chance opportunities after their misses, and then that kind of hurt us.”

But equal to the rebounding was WVU’s free-throw shooting, which has been unpredictable all season. In this one it was Tarik Phillip who stood front and center, making all seven of his attempts down the stretch to become the leading scorer with 16 points.

“Coach has been telling us for the longest while that turnovers and free throws are going to be the death of us, so if we limit turnovers and make free throws, you got a great chance of winning,” Phillip said.

“That’s what Tarik does,” Huggins said. “You know, Tarik went from being a poor free-throw shooter, and he’s really put a lot of time in. I think he had a streak of maybe 28, 29 in a row, and then he missed a couple and then he’s back on another streak.

“But Tarik puts an enormous amount of time in. And he’s actually listened better. He’s actually listened when we talk to him about how he could improve his shot.”

But it wasn’t only Phillip making free throws. Esa Ahmad, who finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists, hit 7 of 9 from the free throw line and Jevon Carter, who had an off shooting game going 2 of 9, buried a key 3 late, made 5-of-8 free throws and had seven rebounds.

Then there was Lamont West coming off the bench to score 15 points, hitting 6-of-7 shots and 2 of 3 from 3 after coming into the game having made just one of his last 14 3-point tries.

Mostly, though, WVU had to keep after it for the game seemed to ebb and flow back and forth, WVU first extending it’s lead to 27-12 and making it look as though it might be one-sided.

Bucknell toughed it out, though, and brought it back to a three-point margin.

“You know, this year, we’ve been down a couple times,” said Kimball Mckenzie, the game’s leading scorer with 23 points for Bucknell while hitting 5-of-7 shots from 3-point range.

“We’ve been down big, and we know we’re a mentally tough team who is able to fight back. We have a lot of weapons and we didn’t panic. We just, you know, tried to win every possession, one possession at a time. And we looked up a couple minutes later, and we were back in the game.”

“What Bucknell did was make shots,” Huggins said. “They don’t always, you know, nobody does, always make shots that well. McKenzie’s 5 for 7 from 3 and Stephen Brown hit some big 3s. Seemed like every time we started to get away from them a little bit, they made a three.”

And there was their 6-foot-7 freshman center Nana Foulland, who made a big difference before getting into foul trouble.

“Foulland is really a good player. He’s a really good player in any league. He’s athletic, and not just at the offensive end, he changed so many shots. He really disrupted us, I think, offensively, with the shot-blocking ability,” Huggins acknowledged.

But WVU had too many weapons, especially the 1-3-1 zone that Huggins goes to late in a game to close it out.

See more from the Times West Virginian

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address