ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With a chance to extend West Virginia’s improbable NCAA Tournament run, Kevin Pittsnogle’s mind was far from the foul line.
“Coach told me to think about my wife,” said the recently married forward. “That kind of cheered me up, and I didn’t think about anything else.”
With a swish and another swish, Pittsnogle’s free throws sealed a 65-60 win over Bob Knight and Texas Tech on Thursday night, moving the Mountaineers to the regional finals for the first time since Jerry West led them to the championship game in 1959.
“Thrilled. It’s the best word I can use to describe it for our state, our university and especially our players,” coach John Beilein said.
Pittsnogle scored 22 points, including the free throws to make it 64-60 with 17.2 seconds left, to send the seventh-seeded Mountaineers (24-10) to Saturday’s regional final against Rick Pitino’s fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals (32-4).
“I’ve talked with sports psychologists and they always say to make them feel relaxed and happy,” Beilein said about his conversation with Pittsnogle. “I said, ‘You have a wonderful wife and family. Think about that while you’re out there.’ “
They needed something good to think about after watching a 62-55 lead whittled down to two points. The Mountaineers won despite not scoring a field goal over the last 3:54.
Pittsnogle, a muscular, tattooed 6-foot-11 forward who shoots and handles the ball like a guard, carried the Mountaineers down the stretch, and his 3-pointer with 6:10 left put West Virginia ahead to stay at 56-53.
But the Red Raiders (23-11), battling for their first trip to the round of eight, didn’t go down easily. A three-point play by Jarrius Jackson and a layup by Devonne Giles — his first points since the opening minutes, cut West Virginia’s lead to 62-60 with 1:17 left.
With the Mountaineers on their heels, Pittsnogle bailed them out. Jackson stole the ball near midcourt and raced in for a layup, but Pittsnogle blocked it with 57 seconds remaining. In the battle for the loose ball, the Red Raiders got three offensive rebounds and four shots, but all missed.
The ball started to roll out of bounds near the Texas Tech bench and Beilein’s son, Patrick, managed to save it and call a timeout with 30.5 seconds left to set up the free throws.
West Virginia 65, Texas Tech 60
West Virginia (24-10)–Sally 3-9 1-1 8, Gansey 4-7 0-2 11, Pittsnogle 7-13 6-8 22, Collins 1-2 0-0 3, Joh.Herber 1-7 0-0 2, Beilein 4-7 0-0 10, Nichols 1-1 0-0 2, Young 1-2 0-0 2, Fischer 2-3 1-2 5. Totals 24-51 8-13 65.
Texas Tech (22-11)–Giles 6-7 0-1 12, Dora 3-8 5-7 11, Zeno 1-3 0-2 2, Jackson 3-11 3-3 9, Ross 8-22 0-0 16, Marshall 3-5 3-3 10, White 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-56 11-16 60.
Halftime—West Virginia 32, Texas Tech 32. 3-Point Goals—West Virginia 9-22 (Gansey 3-4, Pittsnogle 2-3, Beilein 2-5, Collins 1-2, Sally 1-3, Young 0-1, Joh.Herber 0-4), Texas Tech 1-8 (Marshall 1-1, Dora 0-1, Jackson 0-3, Ross 0-3). Fouled Out—Giles. Rebounds—West Virginia 31 (Pittsnogle 8), Texas Tech 34 (Dora 9). Assists—West Virginia 14 (Beilein 4), Texas Tech 10 (Zeno 4). Total Fouls—West Virginia 15, Texas Tech 15. A—15,792.
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