West Virginia 92, Providence 79
NEW YORK (AP)—If West Virginia keeps hitting shots from all over the Madison Square Garden court, it might have a long stay in the Big East tournament.
West Virginia made a Big East tournament record 17 3-pointers and the seventh-seeded Mountaineers beat Providence 92-79 in the opening round Wednesday night.
“When we shoot like that we’re a tough out,” coach John Beilein said. “We’ve had moments where we’re extremely efficient. We really did a great job tonight.”
The win kept alive West Virginia’s chances of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should it not win the conference title.
“I think the best idea for everyone in the country is just to keep winning,” Beilein said. “I know the NCAA selection committee does a terrific job, but we just need to keep winning and not worry about any of that.”
Frank Young and Alex Ruoff each scored 21 points for the Mountaineers, who moved into the quarterfinals against second-seeded Louisville on Thursday night.
“Twenty hours and we’re back playing again,” Beilein said. “I thought Thursday was always a great day in New York. I think it’s one of the best nights in this game.”
The Friars beat the Mountaineers 64-61 on Feb. 20, but West Virginia was just 9-for-41 from behind the arc in that game.
Wednesday night was much different as West Virginia hit its ninth 3-pointer early in the second half. The Mountaineers finished 17-for-31 on 3s in the game, matching their season high.
“We had a game plan to get to their shooters,” Providence coach Tim Welsh said. “They are a 3-point shooting team and you pick your poison with them.”
Ruoff and Young each hit five 3s and Darris Nichols added 16 points for West Virginia (22-8).
“You can’t say enough about Darris Nichols,” Ruoff said. “He’s one of the best point guards in the country and I’m glad I play with him.”
Dwain Williams scored 21 points, Herbert Hill added 20 and Weyinmi Efejuku had 19 for the Friars (18-12).
Williams’ play impressed Welsh.
“He’s terrific. He kept us in the game and help get us back into the game,” he said.
Trailing by two late in the first half, West Virginia went on a 25-8 run to take a 53-38 lead with 14:51 left in the game. The Mountaineers hit seven 3-pointers during the spurt, including three each by Young and Rouff.
Providence answered with its own 15-3 run. Hill started and ended the spurt with dunks.
“I thought our guys did a great job of fighting back,” Welsh said. “Our kids battled back within reach, but the 3s put it out of reach.”
Nichols then made a 3-pointer to restore a six-point advantage for West Virginia. After trading baskets, West Virginia led 66-60 with 9 minutes left.
“It deflates you when you get back to three, turn it over and they get easy baskets,” Welsh said.
The Mountaineers then used a 10-3 spurt to take a 76-65 lead. Nichols capped it with West Virginia’s 15th 3-pointer of the game, surpassing Seton Hall’s record of 14 set in 1995 against Boston College.
Providence missed the Big East tournament for the first time last season. The Friars also lost in the first round to West Virginia in 2005. They fell to 1-8 in the tournament under Welsh.