The Mountaineers got big performances from both Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle, but Joe Herber's all-around play makes him our pick as the player of the game against the Wildcats.
With Villanova's sticky man-to-man defense denying WVU clean looks from the outside, Herber led a Mountaineer charge to the hoop that made the difference in WVU's win. Although the steady senior missed a couple of close range chances, he made enough to pull the Wildcat defenders in and clear the way for a late Kevin Pittsnogle three-pointer that drew the Mounaineers within two.
On WVU's next possession, Herber again piled headlong into the lane, drew a foul and drained both to forge the first tie since 20-20 in the first half.
Herber made half of his 16 shots, and although he hit just one of five from long range, swished all six of his free throws, including two with the Mountaineers clinging to a one-point lead with just 22 seconds to play. He added seven assists and two steals, and also brought the ball upcourt several times in the second half against the Wildcat press.
Mike Gansey could have easily earned out game honors as well. During a first half in which the Wildcats shot the lights out, Gansey helped keep WVU within shouting distance by nailing a trio of three-pointers. His total of 11 points in the first half kept the opening twenty minutes from being a total rout, and paved the way for WVU's second half comeback.
Mike made seven of his 11 shots, including all four of his three-point attempts, and was a solid defensive presnece during the second half on the point of WVU's 1-3-1. And although he struggled from the free throw line, he hit two crucial freebies with less than a minute to play to extend West Virginia's lead to four.
Sometimes Kevin Pittsnogle gets overlooked here, as his spectacular shooting has become almost routine. He did it again against the Wildcats, going 9-13 overall, including 4-5 from three-point range, to help flush away the bad memories from last year's rout. Pittsnogle's biggest shots actually came inside, as he hit three jump hooks from the right block to help fuel WVU's win.
One item that loomed large in the outcome was WVU's incredible ability to not panic in the face of adversity. No matter what happens to this team (such as Villanova's 76% shooting rate from three-point range in the first half), it manages to keep its poise and play its game. It may not always result in such a thrilling win as this one, but it does mean that the Mountaineers are rarely out of any game it plays.
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