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Sean McNeil Returns, West Virginia Fends off No. 15 UConn in Final Minute

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In the Big East-Big 12 Battle between West Virginia and No. 15 Connecticut, the Mountaineers were able to fend off the Huskies 56-53, with an 8-2 run in the final four minutes.

Tax Sherman went to the line with 21 seconds remaining, went 1-of-2, with the miss going to Gabe Osabuohien, who grabbed the offensive rebound. Afterward, Sean McNeil went to the line, hitting both free throws.

Sherman led the way with 23 points, on 8-of-17 shooting from the field. The fifth-year senior had six rebounds and three assists as well.

About an hour before tip, it was announced that McNeil would play after dealing with a back injury last week. McNeil’s back seemed alright as the senior guard started the game with the first two baskets for the Mountaineers.

UConn (8-2) got WVU (8-1) forward Isaiah Cottrell into foul trouble, committing two fouls early on. Cottrell sat the rest of the first half, as Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan carried the weight down low.

Between the Mountaineers and Huskies, there were 10 lead changes throughout the first half. West Virginia was hitting their three-point shots (5-of-10) but not their layups (2-of-9). McNeil and Taz Sherman had all the three-point makes in the first half.

Connecticut shot 1-of-12 from three but had 18 points in the paint, in the first half. WVU went into the break with a 32-29 lead over UConn. Out of the break, both teams started sloppy, with a combined five turnovers and 5-of-16 shooting from the field.

After two missed free throws by Gabe Osabuohien, UConn’s RJ Cole hit back-to-back three-pointers to give the Huskies their first lead of the second half. UConn had all of the momentum and subsequently went on a 10-0 run, as West Virginia couldn’t find a basket. A three-pointer by Jalen Bridges ended the run, giving the Mountaineers some confidence.

A layup by Paulicap tied the game up at 47, with 6:42 remaining, resulting in a timeout called by UConn’s head coach Dan Hurley.

UConn was able to retake the lead after multiple missed free-throws by West Virginia. The Mountaineers shot 12-of-27 (44 percent) from the charity strike, on Wednesday.

Once again, WVU punched back; a layup by Sherman and then a hustle play by Paulicap helped give the Mountaineers the lead back with three minutes left.

Other notable scorers were McNeil (16), Osabuohien (6) and Paulicap (5).

West Virginia will now focus on Sunday’s game against Kent State. WVU will tip off with the Golden Flashes at 4 p.m. on ESPN2.

(Top Photo: Julia Mellett / WVSN)

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Ethan Bock is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in journalism at WVU. He currently is an intern with the Final Fourcast podcast. Ethan has covered WVU football and men’s basketball for the last year. He is from Cincinnati, Ohio.

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