The West Virginia University Men’s Basketball team knew they were in for a battle in today’s NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Second Round game against the hungry Buffalo Bulls. However, in the face of a mounting comeback, the Mountaineers did not falter as they ended the game on a 6-0 run to win 68-62 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Late in the second half, the Mountaineers led by as much as nine during the final seven minutes of the contest before Buffalo would go on an impressive 12-3 run to tie the game at 62 apiece. UB’s Xavier Ford buried a couple of three pointers during the stretch – one at the 5:41 mark, and another at the 2:44 mark – to put the Bulls within striking distance.
West Virginia began the game on a 7-0 run as Daxter Miles Jr. got the scoring going with a three-point basket at the 19:49 mark of the first half, while Devin Williams contributed a couple of two-point jumpers during a two minute stretch.
The Mountaineers were tough on the defensive prowl all afternoon as they forced the Bulls into a game-high 17 turnovers. Buffalo missed two shots, and committed three turnovers to begin the game before Lamonte Bearden answered with a couple of made free throws at the 16:47 mark of the first half. By the end of the first half, Buffalo had turned the ball over 11 times as WVU attained a game-high thirteen-point lead twice – once at the 11:34 mark, and another at the 9:49 mark.
In the second half, West Virginia had a tough time keeping the Bulls off the foul line as they got charged with seven fouls within the first nine minutes of the period. The Bulls made the most of their opportunities as they managed to tie the game with over two minutes left to play.
West Virginia never panicked as they did not allow the Bulls to make another basket the rest of the way. Devin Williams regained the lead for the Mountaineers after hitting a pair of foul shots at the 2:10 mark. Tarik Phillip followed things up over 90 seconds later with a game-clinching trey as the shot clock expired to put the Mountaineers up by five with just 29 seconds left to play.
Buffalo fouled on the following possession to send Gary Browne to the free throw line in the dying seconds. Browne would make one of his two foul shots as West Virginia would hold on to win by six.
WVU finished the afternoon 22 of 49 from the field (44.9%), and 19 of 27 from the foul line (70.4%). The Mountaineers also finished the day with a 31-30 advantage in the rebounding category.
Sophomore forward Devin Williams finished the afternoon as the game’s leading scorer. Williams went 5 of 6 from the field, and 7 of 9 from the foul line for 17 points, nine rebounds, a steal, and an assist. Senior guard Juwan Staten returned to WVU’s line-up in style as he went 5 of 9 from the field, and 5 of 7 from the foul line for 15 points, seven assists, and three rebounds. Freshman guard Daxter Miles Jr. finished with double figures for a sixth consecutive game as he recorded 10 points, and three rebounds in today’s win.
Buffalo was led in scoring on the day by senior forward Xavier Ford. Ford went 5 of 9 from the field, and 3 of 6 from beyond the arc for a team-high 16 points, two rebounds, and two assists. Also reaching double-figures for the Bulls in today’s game was sophomore guard Shannon Evans with 15, and junior forward Justin Moss with 13.
West Virginia improves to 24-9 overall with today’s win, and advance to the round of 32. Buffalo’s season ends with today’s loss as they finish the year 23-10 overall. The Mountaineers will play the winner of No. 4 Maryland and No. 13 Valparaiso Sunday in Columbus. The tip-off time, and network assignment for Sunday’s game will be announced tomorrow.