MORGANTOWN - West Virginia's basketball team found unique inspiration to beat No. 16 Connecticut on Wednesday night.
"Desperation," WVU Coach Bob Huggins said.
The Mountaineers made a timely switch to a perplexing point-drop zone and threw the Huskies into an extended funk. WVU used the opening to score points and score a 65-56 victory that greatly enhances the probability of getting a one-round bye in the Big East Tournament.
"It seemed like they went down the court 10 straight times and didn't miss," forward Cam Thoroughman said. "They had a couple easy looks, not many, but a couple of those shots, it was like, 'Are you serious?'
"I don't know if the defense got to them or if they got tired, but the shots stopped falling and we got the rebounds and executed on the offensive end. That's how we separated ourselves at the end of the game."
UConn (21-8, 9-8) made four consecutive shots and seven of eight in the middle of the second half and led 47-46 with 10:12 remaining. The Mountaineers switched to their version of the 2-3 zone and watched the Huskies miss 10 straight shots. UConn made only free throws during WVU's 10-4 run and went 4:59 without a point and 7:58 without a basket.
"We had to change the tempo," Huggins said. "We had to figure out a way we could get some stops."
Shabazz Napier ended the spell with a jumper with 2:50 remaining that cut WVU's lead to 56-53, but the Mountaineers scored the next nine points, including a critical second-chance basket by forward Kevin Jones.
"They were getting in the paint too much in the first half and the zone kept them out of the paint and made them shoot more jumpers and not focus on getting the ball inside as much as they usually like to do," Jones said.
"They're a big team that traditionally gets inside and makes things happen there. We put the zone in and tried to hold them to outside shots and it kind of frustrated them, especially when the jump shots weren't going in. That's what we wanted to do to them."
Jones had his seventh double-double of the season and the second in a row, this time with 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Mountaineers posted up John Flowers with 1:45 remaining and Flowers missed, but Jones somehow plucked the rebound from UConn's 6-foot-9, 240-pound Alex Oriakhi and hurried a shot that fell through the hoop for a 58-53 lead.
"I didn't even see the rim on that shot," Jones said. "I was wondering why I didn't just bring it back out, but my instincts just told me to go up with it. I'm glad I did."
The Huskies missed again on the other end and Darryl "Truck" Bryant went 7-for-8 at the foul line to finish the game.
"They won in what I would consider to be Bob Huggins' style," UConn Coach Jim Calhoun said. "They out-toughed us."
Joe Mazzulla matched a career-high with 18 points and added five assists. No one else had more than nine points, but everyone who played made a shot. Flowers finished with seven points, six rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots and two steals.
The Mountaineers (19-10, 10-7) shot 52.6 percent in the second half and outrebounded the Huskies, 36-30. They turned the ball over only nine times and had assists on 17 of 22 baskets. The win pushed them into a tie for sixth in the conference with Georgetown and Cincinnati, which won at Marquette Wednesday night, 67-60.