Gansey's late free throws lift West Virginia

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike Gansey had the moment of his life and West Virginia has a chance at Big East history.

The junior forward made two free throws with .2 seconds to play to give the Mountaineers a 78-76 victory over Villanova (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) on Friday night, sending them into their first Big East tournament championship game.

Gansey, who finished with a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds, was fouled as he put up his second rebound of a missed 3-pointer by Patrick Beilein.

"When I got the foul, I knew was going to the line. I just looked up, looked around," he said. "The whole Madison Square Garden was standing up. The whole country was watching. Coach looked at me and said, 'I love you,' and that's all I needed to make it."

Gansey, a 72 percent free-throw shooter this season, made both to keep the tournament run alive for West Virginia (21-9), the first No. 8 seed to reach the title game.

The Mountaineers, who beat top-seeded Boston College in the quarterfinals, have a chance to make Big East history when they face Syracuse on Saturday night. No team has ever won four games to win the league title.

"We'll use a 10-man rotation and everybody just has to give us enough," West Virginia coach John Beilein said of playing four games in as many days. "I hope that's not an issue. The issue will be the talent we face."

West Virginia, which beat Providence 82-59 in the opening round, is the third team to win three games and get to the championship game and the first since Pittsburgh in 2001.

Randy Foye had 22 points for the fourth-seeded Wildcats (22-7), who had their eight-game winning streak snapped. Their last championship game appearance was in 1997 and their last title as in 1995.

"That was a great college basketball game. It's difficult to take but we have to," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "It's part of life and you move on. We have to win the next one that's what's on our minds now."

Foye scored in the lane with 10 seconds to play to tie the game at 76. West Virginia didn't call a timeout and Beilein let fly from the right side with about four seconds left. Gansey grabbed the loose ball, went up and hit the bottom of the backboard. The ball came right back to him and he was fouled by Allan Ray.

"The 3 looked short, and I just went up and grabbed it," Gansey said. "I think someone was pulling on my shirt maybe, or maybe hit the back of my thigh. I just went up for a layup and they called a foul. I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' I looked up at the clock and it was .2 and I thought, 'I can't believe I'm in this situation.'

"It's the best experience I've ever had. I can't explain it," he said.

Gansey set his career high of 21 points in the quarterfinal win over Boston College.

Ray was matter-of-fact in describing the last play.

"He jumped up there before me and I couldn't get there right away," Ray said. "My hand got caught up in his arm and the ref called the foul."

It was a game of runs for the first 30 minutes.

Villanova took a 23-13 lead in the opening nine minutes. West Virginia then found its stroke from 3-point range and the Mountaineers went on a 29-8 run that included five 3s.

"When we had that 10-point lead we hit a lull," Wright said. "Then it was a game."

The Mountaineers still led 53-43 with 14:45 to play when the Wildcats scored the next 10 points, a run that started with a 3 by Ray and ended with a 3 by Curtis Sumpter, who scored all 13 of his points in the second half.

Neither team led by more than six points the rest of the way.

Sumpter scored down low with 3:01 left to give Villanova a 74-73 lead, its first since 23-21.

Joe Herber hit West Virginia's 13th 3-pointer with 19 seconds left to give the Mountaineers a 76-74 lead.

West Virginia was 13-for-25 from 3-point range, a statistic even more impressive since Villanova was second in the league in 3-point defense at 30.8 percent. The 13 3s were one off West Virginia's season high and each of the starters had at least two.

"When we shoot them like that, we can play with a lot of people," John Beilein said.

Wright said the 3s made the difference.

"We just didn't do a good enough job today covering the 3s," Wright said. "When they hit those 3s they are a very difficult team to beat."

The Mountaineers finished with a 34-21 rebound advantage.

"We have a thing when we outrebound somebody, we usually lose," John Beilein said of his team that ranked last in the league in that category.

Kevin Pittsnogle added 18 points for West Virginia, while Frank Young had 12.

Ray had 17 points for Villanova, which beat West Virginia 84-46 in the teams' only meeting this season on Jan. 5.