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Thursday, March 17, 2011
Rapid Reaction: WVU 84, Clemson 76

By Mark Schlabach

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tired legs?

No. 12 seed Clemson came storming out of the locker room in its East Regional second-round game against No. 5 seed West Virginia, grabbing an early 10-point lead over the Mountaineers at St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday. The Tigers were playing for the second time in less than 48 hours, after defeating UAB 70-52 in a first-round game on Tuesday night.

But West Virginia stormed back to tie the game at 40 at the half, and then turned up its defensive intensity in the second half to pull away with an 84-76 victory.

Turning point: After West Virginia took a 76-71 lead on Joe Mazzulla's two foul shots with 1:43 to go, Mountaineers guard Dalton Pepper stole the basketball from the Tigers and scored layups on two straight possessions. The Mountaineers turned a four-point lead into an 80-71 advantage in only 23 seconds.

Player of the game: West Virginia forward Kevin Jones gave his team some much-needed momentum by knocking down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie the score at 40 heading into halftime. Jones, a junior from Mount Vernon, N.Y., scored 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds.

Key stat: 80.6 percent: The Mountaineers made 25 of 31 foul shots and went 10-for-10 in the first half. West Virginia shot 70.6 percent from the foul line this season.

Miscellaneous: West Virginia guard Truck Bryant scored 19 points with three rebounds, and Mazzulla had 12 points with seven assists. Clemson guards Demontez Stitt and Andre Young combined for 38 points.

What’s next: West Virginia advances to play the winner of Thursday’s second-round game between No. 4 seed Kentucky and No. 13 seed Princeton on Saturday. The Mountaineers upset the Wildcats 73-66 in the Elite Eight last season. Clemson finished the season with a 22-12 record, a pretty good rookie campaign by coach Brad Brownell.