NCAA tournament: West Virginia beats No. 1-seeded Kentucky, 73-66, to advance to Final Four
West Virginia didn’t make a two-point basket until guard Joe Mazzulla flipped in a layup with 18:08 left in the game — and still won.
It was that kind of magical day for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia rained in three-pointers in the first half at the Carrier Dome today and added enough shorter shots in the second to defeat Kentucky, 73-66, to win the NCAA tournament's East Regional.
West Virginia, Kentucky’s hard-luck basketball neighbor, advances to the Final Four for the first time since 1959. That was the year Cal upset Jerry West and the Mountaineers in the national title game.
West Virginia (31-6) will play the Duke-Baylor winner next Saturday in Indianapolis.
Devin Ebanks made two free throws with 14 seconds left to clinch the win.
It was a strange game and maybe the weirdest first half ever.
West Virginia failed to score a two-point basket in the half, yet went to the locker room with a 28-26 lead.
The Mountaineers scored all their points on three-point baskets and free throws. This was the same West Virginia team that made only four of 15 three-pointers in Thursday’s win over Washington and shot only 33% all year.
West Virginia missed all 16 of its two-point attempts in the half, but made eight of 15 three-pointers. Go figure.
The Mountaineers played a more conventional second half and eventually pulled ahead of top-seeded Kentucky.
Mazzulla, playing more because of the injury to Darryl Bryant, was a second-half catalyst. His basket with 10 minutes left gave his team a 10-point lead.
He scored 17 points before fouling out with 2:21 left.
West Virginia extended the lead to 16 and then held on for the victory.
Kentucky, which ends the season at 35-3, failed to reach the Final Four, in which it last appeared in 1998.West Virginia opened the game with consecutive threes by Wellington Smith and Kevin Jones.
Kentucky then went on a 13-0 run before Mazzulla made another three. It was crazy.
Da’Sean Butler made his first of four first-half threes with seven minutes left. On his last, with 2:50 left, he was fouled by John Wall and added a free throw to make it a four-point play.
Butler scored two more points on free throws after Kentucky’s DeAndre Liggins was called for a technical.
-- Chris Dufresne
Photo: Kentucky guard John Wall flips a shot toward the basket as West Virginia forward John Flowers goes for the block in the East Regional final of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. Credit: Richard Mackson / US Presswire