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Knight belongs to the Mountaineers

March 25, 2005

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The last time West Virginia went this far in the NCAA tournament, Jerry West was a Mountaineer.

Kevin Pittsnogle and his unheralded teammates spoiled Bobby Knight's return to the round of 16, beating Texas Tech 65-60 Thursday night to move within one win of a surprising trip to the Final Four.

Pittsnogle scored 22 points, including a pair of clutch free throws 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).

The Mountaineers led 62-55 with 3:54 left after Pittsnogle hit a pair of free throws, then held on despite not scoring a field goal the rest of the game.

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West Virginia, a former bubble team and No. 8 seed in the Big East tournament, added another dramatic win to its best run in the NCAA tournament since 1959, when West and the Mountaineers lost the national title game 71-70 to California.

Pittsnogle, a muscular, tattooed 6-foot-11 forward who shoots and handles like a guard, carried the Mountaineers down the stretch. His 3-pointer with 6:10 left put West Virginia ahead to stay at 56-53.

But the Red Raiders, 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.

"That's exactly how I thought the game would go," Knight said. "I did not think it was going to be easy at all to score against them."

The ball started to roll out of bounds near the Texas Tech bench and the Mountaineers managed to save it and call a timeout with 30.5 seconds left.

West Virginia got the ball in Pittsnogle's hands and he was fouled. He swished both free throws and teammate D'or Fischer added a free throw in the final seconds to seal it.

Knight, in his fourth season at Texas Tech, was in the regional semifinals for the first time since 1994 with Indiana, the school he coached to three national titles before a messy divorce in September 2000. Knight's 854 career wins are 25 shy of Dean Smith's NCAA Division I record (879).

Pittsnogle, who hit 7 of 13 shots also had eight rebounds. Mike Gansey scored 11 and Patrick Beilein, the son of coach John Beilein, scored 10.

Ronald Ross led Texas Tech with 16 points, but also had four of the Red Raiders' 16 turnovers.

Ross, whom Knight has called one of his favorite players, took the brunt of Knight's frequent outbursts in a game marked by tenacious defense and plenty of contact inside and on the perimeter.

"From what I could see, both teams made it relatively difficult for the other, to do what they wanted to do offensively," Knight said.

At one point in the first half, Knight shouted at Ross after the former walk-on committed a turnover. In the second half, after another errant Tech pass, a red-faced Knight got in Ross' face and slapped him on the rear.

The tough-love approach worked. Ross, who hit just 3 of 11 shots in the first half, kept the Red Raiders in the game with three steals, all of which he converted into one-handed slams.

The Mountaineers, who hit nine 3s in a 111-105 double-overtime win over Wake Forest in the second round, hit six of their first nine 3-pointers, including four straight to take a 22-14 lead with 12:03 left in the first half. Gansey hit three and Beilein the other.

They were still up by seven when Beilein scored with 9:13 left, but the Mountaineers then went scoreless for nearly 7 minutes.

That allowed Tech to steadily chip away at the West Virginia lead, and Curtis Marshall's 3-pointer with 3:00 left ended a 9-0 run that gave the Red Raiders a 26-24 lead.

Knight, who was trying to reach a regional final for the first time since 1993, will have to wait at least another season to get his next NCAA win. He has 45, two behind John Wooden, who is third on the career list.

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