WVU basketball: Browne's 3 leads to OT and win
MORGANTOWN - West Virginia erased a five-point deficit with 3:40 left in the second half, survived a chaotic end of regulation and finished Cincinnati's seven-game Big East road winning streak with a 77-74 overtime victory Saturday.
The Mountaineers are now in third place in the Big East and a half-game behind Georgetown with a head-to-head win against the Hoyas.
"The talent was always there, but the question was when everything was going to click," forward Kevin Jones said. "I think everything has clicked. It's getting through to the freshmen and they're starting to pick up their play and as long as they can continue to do that, we can continue to be a good team."
A Coliseum crowd of 14,070 watched freshman Gary Browne make a game-tying 3-pointer with 11.3 seconds left in regulation, sighed when the Bearcats missed a layup and then gasped when Truck Bryant and Cincinnati's Dion Dixon wrestled for a ball with just seconds to go before Jones called a timeout the Mountaineers didn't have.
WVU scored the first four points in its fourth overtime game of the season. That was the first time the Mountaineers (15-5, 5-2 Big East) led by more than one point after halftime.
And it nearly didn't happen.
The Bearcats (15-5, 5-2) took a 60-55 lead with 5:41 remaining, but were tied after a 3 from WVU's Jabarie Hinds and a steal and a layup by fellow freshman Browne. Cincinnati rebuilt the lead with a layup by Justin Jackson and a 3 from Cashmere Wright with 3:40 left, but Browne had another layup, Deniz Kilicli made a free throw and Jones made a 3 in transition.
Wright then drove the lane and scored against a confused Bryant.
"It was all my fault," Bryant said. "I almost blew the game. Cashmere Wright drove to the basket and I heard a whistle. I guess it came from the student section, but I thought it was the referee's whistle. I stopped. I let him go."
Kilicli missed inside before Wright made two free throws for a 69-66. The Mountaineers called their final timeout with 25 seconds remaining. The play was supposed to go inside to Kilicli for a quick basket or to Bryant on the perimeter - even with Bryant submitting an historic struggle.
The Bearcats stopped everything and Browne, who missed a pair of 3s earlier in the game and was 7-for-27 this season, stepped behind Kilicli's screen to tie the score.
"We drew up their play in the timeout and they couldn't run it," said Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin, who was on Bob Huggins' staff for three seasons at Cincinnati. "Then a freshman guard is dribbling around and we back away and give him an open 3."
Browne did something similar earlier this season when his 3 forced overtime against Missouri State in the Las Vegas Classic. WVU won before losing to Baylor in overtime in the final a day later.
"Nobody was open so it was my time to step up," Browne said. "I did a great job."
Dixon missed a contested layup with six seconds to go and WVU's Keaton Miles fired the rebound ahead to a wide-open Bryant, who bobbled the ball and a chance to shoot for the win.
"Then the only thing I was thinking was I had to get the ball back," Bryant said.
He dove back to the ball and crashed into Dixon. They battled and Jones quickly called a timeout. Had an official seen it and decided to call it, WVU would have been assessed a technical foul for calling a timeout when it didn't have one.
"I'm so happy that didn't happen," Jones said. "I wouldn't have been able to sleep if that happened."
There was more drama. The clock operator inadvertently stopped the clock with 2.1 seconds left, but the officials never stopped play until referee John Cahill called a jump ball seconds later.
Cahill went to the table to review the play and decided 2.5 seconds had passed between the time the clock was stopped and when Cahill called for the jump ball. The game went to overtime.
Cronin wasn't concerned with that, though.
"I'd like an explanation for why there wasn't a foul called when Dion Dixon got tackled when he had the loose ball," he said.
Jones and Hinds both made two free throws to start overtime and Browne and Kilicli both answered Cincinnati baskets with scores of their own.
WVU won for the fourth time in five games and ended Cincinnati's three-game winning streak. The Mountaineers have won 31 of their 40 Big East home games under Huggins.
Saturday's wasn't easy and it happened with Bryant scoring six points by missing 14 of 16 shots and matching a school record for 3-point futility. He was 0-for-8, the most misses without a make ever for a Mountaineer.
Only Jonathan Hargett (2001) and Seldon Jefferson (1996) matched Bryant. He was 0-for-7 from the floor in the first half before making a layup early in the second half.
"If the first couple don't go, that's cool. That's fine with me," Bryant said. "When the first seven don't go, I'm thinking, 'It's going to be a long night for me.'"
Jones had 26 points and 13 rebounds. He has 13 double-doubles and his five straight games with 20 or more points is the longest streak at WVU since Da'Sean Butler's six in a row in 2009.
Kilicli started after missing Wednesday's win against Marshall with a right ankle sprain and scored 13 points. Browne scored 13 points, matching his career high set against Missouri State, and added nine rebounds. Hinds had 12 points, his third straight game in double figures.
The Mountaineers were 16-for-26 in the second half for the second straight game and finished at 43.7 percent for the game.
Wright led Cincinnati with 17 points. Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick had 12 points and Yancy Gates had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The game was tied three times and the lead changed 12 times. WVU led by as many as nine points in the first half, but was promptly outscored 12-2 the rest of the half.
"We're getting better every time they go out on the floor," Huggins said. "We just have those lapses. We play pretty good for a while and then we have those lapses when they don't do what they are supposed to do."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.