MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Above all else Saturday, West Virginia wanted to win.
There was Senior Day sentiment and the largest home crowd of the regular season. A 20th win, which is no longer a magic number with the NCAA Tournament's selection committee but matters a whole lot to the players, was on the line. With that would come a first-round bye in this week's Big East Tournament.
Just getting the win was more important than who helped and how it happened - up until the point where who helped and how it happened became the story.
"It's a funny game," said guard Truck Bryant, "but that's why you have to play 40 minutes."
WVU trailed No. 11 Louisville 69-64 with 25 seconds to go, but Casey Mitchell, who missed his first five shots in the game, made two 3-pointers to cut into and then erase the deficit.
Bryant, who's been stuck in a shooting slump for more than a month now and was just 3-for-10 against the Cardinals, won the game with a defensive rebound, of all things. He was fouled standing about as far from his basket as possible with 0.6 seconds to go and made two free throws to hand the Mountaineers that win, 72-70.
For Daily Mail video of Bob Huggins' postgame comments go to:
The finish reminded the players of the overtime win at Villanova that ended the 2010 regular season.
"It was very similar to this game - losing late in the game, battling back and hitting some shots at the end," said senior guard Joe Mazzulla. "We fed off that momentum in the postseason and it's up to us to do that again now."
WVU (20-10, 11-7 Big East) will have Tuesday off in New York and begin the defense of its tournament title as the No. 6 seed at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. The Mountaineers play the winner of Tuesday's game between 11-seed Marquette and 14-seed Providence.
The Mountaineers lost at Marquette, 79-74, on New Year's Day and beat Providence, 93-63, at home 12 days later. WVU enters with a three-game winning streak and four wins in five games. Three of the wins were against ranked teams and WVU finished 5-5 in such games this season.
For the latest, they can thank Bryant and Mitchell and their personal payback. It was Bryant who missed two free throws with a one-point lead that should have sealed a win at Louisville Jan. 26, but instead let the Cardinals make a shot with four seconds to go and escape with a 55-54 win.