Published March 20, 2015
COLUMBUS — Tarik Phillip hit a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left while the shot clock was winding down to add the clinching points as fifth-seeded West Virginia held off No. 12 UB, 68-62, on Friday in their NCAA Tournament opener.
The Mountaineers (24-9) advance to Sunday's game against the winner of 13th-seeded Valparaiso and No. 4 Maryland.
Devin Williams, who led the Mountaineers with 17 points and nine rebounds, hit two free throws with 2:10 left to give his team the lead for good.
The Bulls (23-10) did not score over the final 2:42 against the physical Mountaineers.
Juwan Staten had 15 points and seven assists for West Virginia, with Daxter Miles Jr. adding 10 points.
Xavier Ford had 11 of his 16 points in the second half for the Bulls, with Shannon Evans adding 15 points and MAC player of the year Justin Moss, coming back from an injury, had 13 points and seven rebounds.
"It's a hard loss, because we didn'tcome in here satisfying being the champion of our league," said UB coach Bobby Hurley. "We felt we had a team that could win games in the tournament. It didn't play out that way. We were a couple of possessions here or there from that happening.
"But ultimately I'm excited about the enthusiasm about our program and what we're doing and the excitement that Buffalo had to back us here," Hurley said. "It felt great. And it's something to build on with so many returning players coming back."
The game was the NCAA Tournament debut for UB. Both teams were well represented in the building because of the relatively close proximity. The crowd was loud and boisterous throughout in a game in which defense was the centerpiece.
Down 10 points, the Bulls roared out to start the second half by scoring seven quick points on a 3 by Evans to go with baskets by Moss and Ford. But just as quickly, the Mountaineers answered with five points by Williams on a three-point play and a fastbreak basket.
The lead never got smaller than five points nor greater than 11. West Virginia went 4 minutes without scoring, but the Bulls weren’t able to go on a huge run because of the Mountaineers’ hand-to-hand combat-style defense.
But UB could play some defense, too, and WVU also had trouble scoring.
The Bulls pulled within a point on a three-point play by Ford, then moments later tied it at 62 on his 3-pointer from the left wing.
Williams hit his two free throws for the lead. UB failed to tie it with 1:39 remaining when Moss’ layup went in and out. WVU then missed a 3, but was able to call time out during a wild scrum under the hoop.
With the shot clock down to the last tick or two, Staten drove and flipped a pass to Phillip. As the shot clock buzzed, the ball nestled in the net.