West Virginia beats top-seeded Kentucky, 73-66

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- All those CountRy roads apparently lead to Indianapolis tonight as the West Virginia Mountaineers are headed to the Final Four.

The Mountaineers earned their way into college basketball's showcase event courtesy of a 73-66 upset win over top-seeded Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament East Region final before a crowd of 22,497 at the Carrier Dome tonight.

It is the Mountaineers first trip to the Final Four since 1959 -- the junior season of basketball legend Jerry West -- and Saturday they will play the winner of tomorrow's South Region final between Baylor and Duke.

West Virginia (31-6) led at the half, 28-26, despite the fact that the Mountaineers did not make a basket from inside the 3-point line.

That's because the Mountaineers were 8-for-15 from the 3-point line and 4-for-5 from the free throw line -- and also because they limited the Wildcats (35-3) to just 10-for-28 shooting and forced ten turnovers.

But things didn't begin well for the Mountaineers as they fell behind 16-9 in the first 12 minutes of the game and they looked like a team that might not be able to reach 20 points at the rate they were going.

The Mountaineers then stepped beyond the 3-point line and mounted a 12-2 run and took a 21-18 lead on a 3-pointer by Da'Sean Butler with 4:14 to play.

West Virginia opened the second half the same way it closed out the first -- by hitting a 3-pointer, this time by Kevin Jones, with 19:12 to play which gave them a 31-26 lead.

The Mountaineers would then extend that lead to ten points -- at 36-26 -- and a little later pushed it to 11 -- 47-36 -- on a driving lay-up by Joe Mazzulla with 12:11 to play.

West Virginia maintained a comfortable lead for the next six minutes and then took its largest lead to that point -- 57-45 -- on a jumper by Kevin Jones with 5:54 to play.

Devin Ebanks then pushed the lead to 14 points -- 59-45 -- with a lay-up a minute later and that was about all she wrote for the Wildcats, who were never able to make a run at the Mountaineers until it was too late.

One big reason that the Mountaineers are advancing is that Kentucky had an awful night shooting the basketball. The Wildcats finished the night 4-for-31 from the 3-point line and 16-for-29 from the free throw line.

West Virginia, meanwhile, was 10-for-23 from the 3-point line and 23-for-34 from the free throw line.

Four Mountaineers scored in double figures, led by Butler with 18 points while freshman sensation John Wall led the Wildcats with 19 points before fouling out late in the game.


Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1720.


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