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Mountaineers defeat Northwestern State, roll into Sweet 16
Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) - Kevin Pittsnogle scored 14 points as West Virginia overcame a poor second-half shooting performance to hold off Northwestern State, 67-54, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Mike Gansey added 11 points and 12 rebounds for the sixth-seeded Mountaineers (22-10), who made the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season and will now move on to face Texas on Thursday in the Atlanta bracket. Frank Young and J.D. Collins each chipped in with 10 points apiece in the win.
Clifton Lee and Keenan Jones led the 14th-seeded Demons (26-8), who were coming off a thrilling comeback victory over heavily favored Iowa in the first round, with 11 points each. Jermaine Wallace added nine points in the loss.
Northwestern State was just the 15th 14-seed to win a first round game in the tourney and finished its season with a school-record 26 victories.
West Virginia dominated the overmatched Demons from the start with a torturous defense that forced 13 turnovers in the opening half.
A 13-1 flurry turned a 6-5 Mountaineers' deficit into an 18-7 lead midway through the opening frame. Gansey highlighted the run with a pair of layups and West Virginia never trailed again.
Pittsnogle's lay-in with under five minutes left in the half extended the Mountaineers advantage to 15 points, 30-15.
West Virginia finished the half with a commanding 41-19 edge after Darris Nichols buried a running three from beyond midcourt at the buzzer.
West Virginia was not nearly as dominant in the final frame but the hole Northwestern State dug was too large to recover from.
A 7-0 Demons burst, fueled by Kerwin Forges, early in the second half brought Northwestern State to within 17 points.
Forges scored on back-to-back layups and finished the mini-spurt with a triple to make the score 50-33 with just under 13 minutes remaining.
The plucky Demons continued to hang around and used a 9-0 burst to cut the lead to nine, 53-44, with 6:58 left. Jones scored all nine points in the flurry as Northwestern State desperately tried to climb back in the game.
Pittsnogle finally stopped the bleeding with a pair of free throws and Collins followed with another two from the stripe to give West Virginia its double- digit cushion back, 57-44, with 5 1/2 minutes remaining.
The Demons had one last burst in them and scored the next five points of the game. Wallace and Lee sandwiched a Jermaine Spencer free throw with a bucket apiece to make it an eight-point game, 57-49, with 4:16 left.
West Virginia finally sealed the deal over the next three minutes. Collins scored on a layup. Then, Patrick Beilein and Young each netter a pair from the line to give the Mountaineers an insurmountable 64-49 edge.
This was the first-ever meeting between the two clubs...West Virginia shot 54 percent in the first half but just 20 percent in the final frame...The Mountaineers dominated from the charity stripe, netting 24-of-33. The Demons were just 6-of-11...Northwestern State is now 2-2 all-time in the NCAA tourney while West Virginia is 17-19.
03/19 19:21:16 ET
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