West Virginia feels like the breaks are finally going its way.
The 11th-ranked Mountaineers look to remain undefeated in the Big East when they host Cincinnati on Saturday.
West Virginia (16-4, 7-0) held on to beat Notre Dame 71-70 on Wednesday after leading by as many as 15 in the first half. The Mountaineers gave up the lead in the second half, but held on for their first win in the series since 1999 after the Irish’s Chris Quinn missed a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer.
“Tonight’s game wasn’t about who had better players or better coaches,” West Virginia coach John Beilein said. “That shot was all about luck. We had some good luck and they had some bad.”
Kevin Pittsnogle had 22 points and Mike Gansey added 13 for the Mountaineers, who’ve won two in a row since being upset by in-state rival Marshall.
“In past years we’ve lost to them on last-minute shots,” Pittsnogle said. “We were just hoping it would not go in.”
West Virginia is in first place in the conference, a half-game ahead of both top-ranked Connecticut and No. 4 Villanova. The Mountaineers are just the 12th team in Big East history to begin their league schedule with seven straight wins.
The Mountaineers, who are 10-1 at home this season, also hung on after blowing leads against No. 14 UCLA on Jan. 21 and St. John’s on Sunday. Gansey said the team was worn out after their trips to Los Angeles and New York, and the loss to the Thundering Herd.
“Tonight was one of those games that you just grind out every possession,” he said. “Hopefully we can get some rest because we will have tight games the rest of the way.”
Joe Herber, who scored 10 points, started his 115th consecutive game to break Lester Rowe’s school record. Chris Brooks owns the record for most career starts with 118.
The Bearcats (15-7, 4-4) beat South Florida 73-60 on Tuesday for just their second victory in seven contests following a 10-game winning streak. Cedric McGowan had a career-high 18 points and a game-high 14 rebounds for his second career double-double, and Jihad Muhammed added 18 points.
Eric Hicks had his seventh double-double in his last 10 games with 13 points and 11 rebounds, but leading scorer James White managed only six points after spraining his ankle early in the game. He returned after getting the ankle retaped but played with a slight limp.
“I thought Cedric McGowan was fantastic,” Bearcats coach Andy Kennedy said. “With James White going down … we still found a way to win against a team I have a lot of respect for. I am just happy that our guys rose to the challenge and lived to fight another day.”
Cincinnati leads the all-time series 6-4, but the teams haven’t met since the Mountaineers upset the then-No. 9 Bearcats 75-74 in the second round of the 1998 NCAA tournament.