March 11, 2005
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Mike Gansey made two free throws with .2 seconds to play to give West Virginia a 78-76 victory over No. 19 Villanova on Thursday night, sending the Mountaineers into their first Big East tournament championship game.
Gansey, who finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, was fouled as he put up his second rebound of a missed 3-pointer by Patrick Beilein. Gansey, a 72 percent free throw shooter this season, made both to keep the tournament run alive for West Virginia (21-9), the first No. 8 seed to reach the title game.
The Mountaineers, who beat top-seeded Boston College in the quarterfinals, have a chance to make some Big East history when they face the winner of the Connecticut-Syracuse game on Friday night. No team has ever won four games to win the league title.
West Virginia, which beat Providence 82-59 in the opening round, is the third team to win three games and get to the championship game and the first since Pittsburgh in 2001.
Randy Foye had 22 points for the fourth-seeded Wildcats (22-7), who had their eight-game winning streak snapped. Their last championship game appearance was in 1997 and their last title as in 1995.
Foye scored in the lane with 10 seconds to play to tie the game at 76. West Virginia didn't call a timeout and Beilein let fly from the right side with about 4 seconds left. Gansey grabbed the loose ball, went up and hit the bottom of the backboard. The ball came right back to him and he was fouled by Allan Ray.
It was a game of runs for the first 30 minutes.
Villanova took a 23-13 lead in the opening 9 minutes. West Virginia then found its stroke from 3-point range and the Mountaineers went on a 29-8 run that included five 3s.
The Mountaineers still led 53-43 with 14:45 to play when the Wildcats scored the next 10 points, a run that started with a 3 by Ray and ended with a 3 by Curtis Sumpter, who scored all 13 of his points in the second half.
Neither team led by more than six points the rest of the way.
Sumpter scored down low with 3:01 left to give Villanova a 74-73 lead, its first since 23-21.
Joe Herber hit West Virginia's 13th 3-pointer with 19 seconds left to give the Mountaineers a 76-74 lead.
West Virginia was 13-for-25 from 3-point range, a statistic even more impressive since Villanova was second in the league in 3-point defense at 30.8 percent. The 13 3s were one off West Virginia's season high and each of the starters had at least two.
The Mountaineers finished with a 34-21 rebound advantage.
Kevin Pittsnogle added 18 points for West Virginia, while Frank Young had 12.
Ray had 17 points for Villanova, which beat West Virginia 84-46 in the teams' only meeting this season on Jan. 5.