MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The threes kept coming from West Virginia, one after the other to the tune of 45 times the Mountaineers put the ball up, but two clutch threes by LSU senior Darrel Mitchell allowed the LSU Tigers to remain undefeated and score an important road win over the 13th-ranked Mountaineers late Saturday afternoon at the WVU Coliseum.
On an afternoon when the deck seemed stacked against the young Tigers (3-0) with a first-ever November crowd of more than 10,000 (11,044) in the 35-year-old Coliseum and with the emotion of the return of Jerry West to have his jersey retired -- the first in school basketball history -- the script seemed set for LSU to have a long afternoon at the hands of a team that beat them by 15 exactly one year ago in Baton Rouge.
But even after having a 15-point first-half lead eventually disappear, the Tigers weren't going to go away without a fight. Mitchell would hit a three-pointer with 23 seconds to play to tie the game and force overtime at 62-62 and then took a pass and a subsequent big body screen from Glen Davis and hit a corner pocket three-pointer with 12 seconds to play that proved to be the game winner.
"Mitchell hit the big shot at the end and to send it to overtime. If he was off-balance, I hope he keeps shooting that way," said LSU coach John Brady of his team's first win over a ranked team on the road since beating 22nd-ranked Florida, 73-70, on Feb. 14, 2004.
Both times LSU had to withstand a final possession by West Virginia (2-3) to get to overtime and then to win the game. With the game tied at 62-62, J. D. Collins missed a layup, Mike Gansey got the rebound and missed his own shot at the buzzer to allow the game to go to overtime.
In the extra period, John Brady after a time out decided to foul the Mountaineers rather than allow them to shoot the three. Mitchell fouled J.D. Collins with three seconds left, putting him at the line shooting 1-and-1 with LSU up three. He missed the shot Kevin Pittsnogle got the rebound and Patrick Beilein missed a potential tying shot as the horn sounded, setting off the LSU celebration.
Mitchell, who became the 35th player in LSU history to score over 1,000 career points, had 26 points, hitting five-of-seven three-pointers, playing all 45 minutes. Davis, who double doubled for the fifth consecutive game dating back to last year, had 23 points and 14 rebounds. Gansey, who hit 7-of-11 treys, led West Virginia with 25 points and seven rebounds, while Beilein, who hit six treys in the win a year ago in Baton Rouge, added 15 points and Johannes Herber had 10.
LSU shot 28-of-59 from the field (47.5 percent) and 6-of-12 from the arc. West Virginia, after shooting 60 percent in the game a year ago, hit just 34.8 percent (24-of-69) and 33 percent from the arc (15-of-an amazing 45 attempts).
LSU struggled with 22 turnover to just seven for the Mountaineers, but what hurt the Tigers was that WVU got 26 points off the LSU miscues.
The Tigers in the early going jumped out to a 5-0 lead on a three-point play by Darnell Lazare and a layup by Tasmin Mitchell and then had to withstand the early shooting of the Mountaineers and Gansey as the team made five-of-its-first 10 trey attempts. But LSU was dominating the game on the glass, and after WVU cut the margin to 23-21 with 8:13 to go in the first half, the Tigers got a bucket by Davis, a Darrell Mitchell layup, a Tasmin Mitchell layup, a free throw by Davis, another Tasmin Mitchell layup and a Darrel Mitchell layup to make it 34-21 with three minutes to go in the half.
LSU would go up 15, 37-22, before West Virginia scored the final five points of the half, to lead by 10, 37-27, at the intermission.
In the second 20 minutes it became apparent that West Virginia was going to work the screens around the perimeter and get the threes and that, along with LSU turnovers, allowed the Mountaineers to gradually work back into the game. The momentum appeared to swing to WVU when Herber hit a trey with 4:37 to play, giving the Mountaineers their first lead of the game, 57-56.
But the Tigers answered back on a three-point play by Davis to give LSU a 59-57 advantage with 3:52 to go. A Pittsnogle three and an LSU turnover and layin by Beilein gave WVU a 62-59 lead with 56 seconds to play that held until Mitchell's shot that forced overtime.
"West Virginia was able to get some long rebounds because we were tired," Brady said of the second half play when WVU was able to offensive rebound long missed treys. ""They had two losses and they needed this game. We were fortunate enough to hit shots down the stretch. This (WVU) is a good basketball team and we were fortunate to win here."
West Virginia lost for the third-straight time, including a one-point defeat at the hands of No. 2 Texas and a 14-point loss to No. 7 Kentucky in the consolation of the Guardians Classic in Kansas City, Mo., last weekend.
Forward Mike Gansey led the Mountaineers with 25 points -- 21 of which were on three-pointers. Reserve Patrick Beilein had 15 points but missed a potential game-tying three-pointer from the top of the key in the final seconds of overtime.
The LSU-West Virginia match-up could be a preview of the schools in the 2006 Sugar Bowl in Atlanta on Jan. 2, as the Mountaineers clinched the Big East Championship on Saturday, while the Tigers defeated Arkansas on Friday to advance to the SEC Championship game.
The Tigers host Houston on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in a regionally-televised game (Fox Sports) from the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Tickets are available in an online special on a "Two for Tuesday" promotion in which fans can purchase two upper level tickets for the price of one ($11). Also youth tickets (12 and under) are available for only $5.