MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Kevin Jones was big, but it was a freshman who helped win the game Saturday for West Virginia.
Jones scored 26 points for West Virginia, and rookie Gary Browne hit a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime and a layup to help clinch a 77-74 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday.
Trailing 69-66 with 24 seconds left in regulation, West Virginia (15-5, 5-2 Big East) came out of a timeout and Deniz Kilicli got the ball into the hands of Browne, who sank the shot of the game with 14 seconds remaining to send it into OT.
"Deniz set a great screen and Gary got a great look," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.
In overtime, Jones and Jabarie Hinds combined to go 4-for-4 from the foul line in the first 2½ minutes and the Mountaineers never trailed. Browne then had a layup and Kilicli hit a jumper as the Mountaineers outscored Cincinnati (15-5, 5-2) 8-5 in OT to seal the win.
"We are getting better," Huggins said. "We are getting better every time they go out on the floor. The thing that everybody has got to appreciate is how hard they compete. They don't give up and they just continue to compete."
Jones' key baskets throughout the game helped nullify the fact that his running mate Darryl "Truck" Bryant was held to just six points. Jones leads the Big East in scoring (20.4 points per game) and rebounds (11.4). Bryant was averaging 18.1 points.
"I've been feeling very confident. I've been working on my shooting a lot, so it just feels natural for me to go out and shoot," said Jones.
Browne and Kilicli added 13 points for the Mountaineers, and Hinds ended up with 12.
Cashmere Wright was the leading scorer for Cincinnati with 17 points. He was followed by Dion Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick with 12 apiece, and Yancy Gates added 10.
West Virginia led by as many as nine points in the first half, but Cincinnati closed with a 12-2 run to head into intermission leading 33-32.
There were two ties and six lead changes for the rest of regulation.
Cincinnati led by as much as 60-55 with 5:41 left, but the Mountaineers scored five straight points for the second tie of the half.
Wright made that lead three points with 3:25 remaining, but a basket by Browne, one of two free throws by Kilicli and then a Jones 3 in front of his own bench sent the Mountaineers ahead 66-65 with 1:50 to go in regulation.
Wright scored four points in a row for a 69-66 advantage with 28 seconds to go before Browne's big 3-pointer.
In the extra frame, Gates missed two consecutive shots in front of the West Virginia basket and Hinds' free throws gave the Mountaineers a four-point lead with 2:49 left.
Kilpatrick drained a 3 to pull the Bearcats within one, but Hinds stole an errant Cincinnati pass on the next possession and scored when his shot was goal-tended.
Cincinnati scored another basket, but Kilicli hit a left-handed hook at 32.6 seconds left to ice the victory for West Virginia.
"We put ourselves in that position," said Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin. "We had dumb fouls down the stretch. In overtime, we fouled them and let them win the game at the foul line, which we didn't do the entire game."