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WVU awaits Selection Sunday after loss to UConn at MSG

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By John Grupp
Thursday, March 8, 2012

NEW YORK -- Bob Huggins usually doesn't need to lobby his team's NCAA Tournament credentials, but he stumped a bit Wednesday.

"We've done everything they've asked us to do," the West Virginia coach said, "other than maybe win a couple games."

The Mountaineers, playing in their final Big East Tournament, will have to wait until Sunday to learn their NCAA Tournament fate. They blew a nine-point lead with less than four minutes to play in Wednesday's 71-67 overtime loss to No. 9 seed Connecticut in the second round at Madison Square Garden.

It was the final Big East Tournament game for the eighth-seeded Mountaineers, who will be in the Big 12 next season.

WVU (19-13), which was 9-9 in the Big East regular season, entered yesterday a No. 10 seed according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi. A tight loss to Connecticut, another NCAA Tournament hopeful, would not seem to be enough to cost the Mountaineers an at-large berth in the 68-team field.

They're 4-8 in their past 12 games but have victories against Kansas State, Miami, Georgetown, Cincinnati and South Florida. They began the day ranked 45th in the RPI and boast the nation's 14th-toughest schedule.

"We've played more games against top-100 people (21) than anybody in the country," Huggins said. "They say to play a tough schedule; we have."

Huggins also hinted at WVU 's 63-61 loss at No. 2 Syracuse on Jan. 28, when an apparent goaltending call wasn't made in the final seconds.

"You all know that there were some — and several of those games — where some other factors that were involved," he said. "It wasn't just us. You hope that the committee looks at that."

Connecticut (20-12) won its third in a row to put it back in position to defend its national title. The Huskies will meet top-seeded Syracuse (30-1) at noon today in the quarterfinals.

"Next week is an important week for all of us," coach Jim Calhoun said.

Calhoun said he believes WVU and Connecticut deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament.

"I think West Virginia is a very good team," he said. "That was a 20-second game against top-level competition. I'm not going to politic. I'm just telling you, if you look at our record, you say, 'Well, they only have 20 wins.' Yet we played some people."

WVU led, 63-54, with less than four minutes to play but managed only one field goal in the final 8:57, spanning the end of regulation and overtime. The Mountaineers missed all 11 of their field-goal attempts in overtime.

Kevin Jones had 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Truck Bryant added 20 points on 4-of-14 shooting. No one else scored more than six for the Mountaineers, who dominated the rebounding battle, 47-31, but went 3 for 19 from 3-point range and shot 34.7 percent overall.

Connecticut's Shabazz Napier had 26 points and six assists before fouling out with 2:35 to play in overtime. Jeremy Lamb added 22 points and eight rebounds.

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