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Mountaineers force 20 turnovers, snap tourney skid

NEW YORK (AP) -- West Virginia had a tough time getting to New
York. So the Mountaineers took out their frustrations on Providence
and snapped a seven-game losing streak in the Big East tournament.

Kevin Pittsnogle scored 24 points, including matching his career
high with five 3-pointers, and West Virginia beat the Friars 82-59
on Wednesday in the first round.

"We were sitting in a bus in New Jersey and it took us two
hours to go two miles and that was after what should have been a
one-hour flight became a six-hour flight," West Virginia coach
John Beilein said of the travel delays caused by Tuesday's winter
storm that hit the Northeast. "But the kids were laughing, having
fun in the back of the bus. I thought that was a great bonding time
for them."

The eighth-seeded Mountaineers (19-9) will play top-seeded and
seventh-ranked Boston College (24-3) on Thursday in the
quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden.

"They are one of the better teams in the country and there's no
bigger challenge than that," West Virginia guard Tyrone Sally said
of the Eagles. "They already beat us twice and we've got a chip on
our shoulder from that."

The win over Providence may have sealed an NCAA at-large berth
for West Virginia, which had won seven of nine, a stretch that
included two victories over Pittsburgh.

"I feel better right now that's for sure," Beilein said.
"There's a lot of teams deserving out there and I think we made a
major statement that we're one of those teams right now that needs
to be up front."

It was West Virginia's second win in the Big East tournament and
gave it a 2-8 record all-time, with the lone win over Seton Hall in
the first round in 1997.

Ryan Gomes had 20 points in his final game for Providence
(14-17). An All-America last season, the senior forward led the Big
East in scoring this season (22.3) and finished as the Friars'
all-time leading scorer with 2,138 points.

Gomes was asked if he had any regrets over returning for his
senior season rather than heading for the NBA.

"None at all," he said. "I wish we had more wins and would
play longer but that's not the case."

West Virginia took control in the first half with runs of 8-0
and 13-1, the latter giving the Mountaineers a 28-9 lead. Patrick
Beilein, who finished with 13 points, had three 3s in the run.

Providence, which has lost six of its last seven Big East
tournament games, got within 46-34 on a layup by Gomes with 13:48
to play.

J.D. Collins then hit a 3 to start a 9-0 run by the
Mountaineers, and the closest the Friars got the rest of the way
was 15 points.

The 6-foot-11 Pittsnogle, who came in shooting 37 percent from
3-point range, finished 5-of-8 from beyond the arc and the
Mountaineers were 12-for-31 overall. The junior had a game-high
eight rebounds for West Virginia, which beat Providence three times
this season.

"I just felt good coming out," Pittsnogle said. "When I hit
early, I start getting a good rhythm and that lasts throughout the
game."

Gomes had four points and was limited to five shots in the first
half as West Virginia took a 35-20 lead. He finished 7-for-15 from
the field and had eight rebounds, but he also had five of the
Friars' 20 turnovers.

"In the first half we didn't score. We didn't have a very good
presence against their zone pressure," Providence coach Tim Welsh
said. "We just telegraphed our passes and didn't get Ryan enough
touches. In the second half we made a couple of adjustments but
when they shoot the ball like that and stay in their rhythm they're
a very difficult team."

Sally added 16 points for West Virginia and had five of the
Mountaineers' 14 steals.

"We just came out with a lot of energy and started picking it
up on defense," Sally said. "We started getting deflections and
steals and it seemed like the referees were letting us play. We
just tried to stay on them and not back down."