WVU Blows Lead, Falls 71-67 to Connecticut in Overtime - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Blows Lead, Falls 71-67 to Connecticut in Overtime

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NEW YORK -

The Mountaineers recall what happened when they played the Huskies at their arena in the regular season. A second half lead squandered, WVU felt it had given one away.

On Wednesday, the No. 8 seed did much the same, letting a 11-point second half lead disappear as they went to overtime with Connecticut and ultimately lost, 71-67.

Kevin Jones came out strong in this one, looking to prove himself after being overlooked as the conference player of the year.

He finished the game with 25 points and nine rebounds.

"They out-toughed us. They took the ball out of our hands, they beat us to loose balls and that was the key to the game," said Jones.

With four minutes remaining and holding a nine-point lead, Truck Bryant had a chance to put the game away with a kill shot right after an offensive rebound for WVU.

Bryant chose to shoot an open three ball rather than take it back out and run clock. It's a decision he stood by after the game.

"If I make it, that's game," says Bryant. "Looked good, felt good. It was just a little short."

From that point in the game on, Connecticut closed out the game on a 19-6 run.

Shabazz Napier continued to hit big shots, finishing the game with 26 points on 7-of-18 shooting. He and Jeremy Lamb combined for 48 points, while Jones and Bryant contributed 45 for WVU.

As is the norm with Jones, some of his biggest contributions came when teammates missed shots and he was able to gather the rebound and put it back up for two or kick it out for another possession.

WVU held the advantage on the glass 47-31, but were outshot by 15 percent.

Jones made most of his damage down low, but added a 3-pointer to lead all scorers with 13 heading into the locker room.

While his play was expected, Dominique Rutledge's contributions were not.

Entering the game for Deniz Kilicli just over six minutes into the contest, the junior forward provided a far better matchup in the post and on the perimeter than Kilicli had done.

He was able to battle for rebounds on both ends of the court and came away with six boards and four points but his biggest highlight came moments after he checked in for the second time.

Getting the ball along the baseline, Rutledge took off from what seemed like too far away to get to the bucket, yet somehow he caught a gust of wind that took him to the rim for an emphatic slam.

The Mountaineers had an opportunity to extend their lead going into the locker room, but Aaron Brown first missed a three and after getting the ball back on a Rutledge rebound, he missed a wide-open layup attempt. Halftime score was 30-26 with the No. 8 seed on top.

Out of the half, Jones put up a jumper and followed it with a board and a basket to get the WVU bench nearly pouring onto the court and the fans in a frenzy, pulling ahead seven as Huskies Coach Jim Calhoun took a timeout to stop the bleeding.

The Mountaineers were able to build an 11-point lead before UConn really responded and with the aid of some fouls called on the big men, the distance between the teams began to diminish.

A nifty play from Gary Browne as he drove the lane and gave up the ball to Kilicli rather than force his own shot and the forward threw it in to bring the lead back to nine, but after a UConn timeout, Kilicli's day ended.

Battling for a rebound of a Bryant miss, Kilicli was called for a foul, his fifth. He threw his arms up in the air, but the decision was final. Rutledge would be counted on the rest of the way.

Down the stretch, Napier was able to turn over the Mountaineers and put the ball in the hoop at the other end.

Browne forced a big turnover and got a timeout called, but the Mountaineers couldn't capitalize and the Huskies took their first lead since it was 25-24 in the first half on Napier free throws before he fouled out of the game.

WVU could find nothing on the offensive end. Bryant's final effort was blocked as he drove to the basket and Ryan Boatright, once a WVU commit, made a single free throw to build a four-point lead with under 20 seconds remaining.

Jones didn't have a single point in the final 11 minutes of the game when WVU needed him most and Huggins had a simple explanation for that lack of production.

"He was playing with a bunch of freshmen that don't have any idea what the hell they're doing," said Huggins.

That was all it took to finish off the Mountaineers, who for the second-straight season exit the Big East tournament after just one game.

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