CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Joe Herber was one of the last players
West Virginia coach John Beilein wanted to take a shot with the
game on the line.
Herber, a freshman from Germany, hit a long jumper with 50
seconds left to give West Virginia the lead, and the Mountaineers
held on to beat Florida (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) 68-66 Tuesday night.
''I couldn't lie to you and say I told him to shoot it. I
didn't. I told him to run something else,'' Beilein said. ''Thank
God he didn't listen.''
West Virginia (3-1) overcame Florida's full-court press and a
nine-point deficit in the second half to beat a ranked opponent for
the first time in six tries.
Florida (4-2), playing the third of a four-game road trip,
looked nothing like the team that beat then-No. 2 Kansas in last
week's Preseason NIT consolation game.
The loss was the first in December for Florida since 1998, a
span of 23 games.
''If we would have won that game, we wouldn't have deserved
it,'' Florida coach Billy Donovan said. ''West Virginia played with
more heart and intensity.''
The Gators briefly built a double-digit lead in the first half
and struggled against a West Virginia team under a first-year coach
who starts three freshmen and two sophomores.
''This is a highlight in our season, but not the highlight of
the season,'' Beilein said. ''This is a great step forward for our
However, ''it won't mean anything at 4 o'clock against
Greensboro,'' he said of the Mountaineers' opponent on Saturday.
The Gators took the lead five minutes into the game and held it
until Herber's basket put the Mountaineers ahead 66-64. Herber was
supposed to hit leading scorer Drew Schifino with a pass off a
Herber had sustained a cut on the top of his shooting hand a few
minutes before and he briefly left the game to get the wound
Herber entered the game just 1-of-10 from 3-point range but
never lost confidence in his shot.
''I've been through shooting slumps before,'' he said. ''I know
I just have to keep shooting.''
After the go-ahead basket, Schifino grabbed a miss by Florida
freshman Matt Walsh, was fouled and hit a free throw with 37
seconds left for a three-point lead.
Matt Bonner, who led Florida with 18 points, hit a jump hook
with 24 seconds left to make it 67-66. West Virginia freshman
Jarmon Durisseau-Collins made a free throw with 19 seconds left to
close the scoring.
Florida's Brett Nelson had a shot blocked by Schifino with five
seconds left and Nelson's off-balance try with one second left fell
Despite shooting 51 percent from the field for the game, Florida
managed just one basket over the final five minutes.
''Our guys didn't drive the lane very well at all,'' Donovan
said. ''They just really didn't execute.''
Schifino, a sophomore, led West Virginia with 16 points, six
under his average. Sophomore Tyrone Sally had 13 and Herber 11.
David Lee had 17 points for Florida, while Walsh, who had 22
against Kansas last week, was held to six.
Two normally sure-handed teams were sloppy in the first half.
Florida had 11 turnovers and the Mountaineers matched their season
average for an entire game with eight.
Florida found its focus to start the second half, scoring the
first eight points to pull ahead 38-29, but the lead never got back
to double digits.
The game was arranged so that Nelson could play before a
hometown crowd. The native of St. Albans, 15 minutes outside
Charleston, started his first game after returning last week from a
stress fracture in his foot. He was limited to nine points on
3-of-13 shooting in 30 minutes.
''We were not prepared to handle some of the things they threw
at us,'' Nelson said.
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