Mountaineers hold off Bulls in finale

March 4, 2012 12:00 am

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TAMPA, Fla. -- West Virginia coach Bob Huggins thinks the Mountaineers have accomplished enough to make the NCAA tournament. He figures improved South Florida has done the same.

"I think they're fine. ... They're in the top 50 in the RPI [Ratings Percentage Index]," Huggins said of South Florida after his Mountaineers held off the Bulls, 50-44, Saturday at Tampa Bay Times Forum in a matchup of Big East Conference teams trying to bolster their resumes for the NCAA selection committee. "There's other people in our league that aren't close to that RPI-wise."

Senior guard Darryl Bryant had 12 of his 16 points in the second half and West Virginia (19-12, 12-6) scored its final 10 points on free throws to win its regular-season finale despite shooting less than 29 percent from the field. Kevin Jones made four free throws in the final 1:51 to finish with 18 points.

Anthony Collins had 11 points for South Florida (19-12, 12-6), which had won six of its previous seven games to build a strong case for being invited to the NCAA tournament.

"We let one get away, and we're disappointed," South Florida coach Stan Heath said. "We didn't do a lot of little things. ... I don't know if just the magnitude of the game got to us. I don't know if we were just a little antsy, but we played what I call out of character [Saturday]."

Bryant missed 9 of 11 shots from the floor, but he followed a jumper in the lane with a three-point play that put West Virginia ahead, 41-39, with seven minutes left. South Florida pulled even at 44-44 on Toarlyn Fitzpatrick's long 3-pointer, however, the Bulls were unable to score in the final three minutes.

The Mountaineers closed out their eighth consecutive victory against South Florida by going 9 for 10 from the free-throw line over the final 4:26. Bryant and Jones each made four down the stretch, and freshman Jabarie Hinds made 1 of 2 free throws for his only point of the game.

"We haven't been near as good defensively as we have been in the past, but I thought we were pretty good [Saturday]," Huggins said. "It's hard to win shooting 28 percent, really hard to win. We made plays when we had to make plays. We did a pretty good job, other than the beginning of the second half, of trying to make them try to do things other than what they wanted to do."

South Florida, looking for its first berth in the NCAA tournament in 20 years, entered the game coming off what Heath had described as the biggest victory in school history -- a seven-point win at Louisville that likely gave the Bulls a spot in the 68-team field, regardless of what happens this week in the Big East tournament. The 12 wins in the conference is a program best since joining the Big East.

First Published 2012-03-03 23:26:51

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