TAMPA, Fla. (KDKA/AP) – The West Virginia Mountaineers started off slow in the first half of the game, but finished strong in their 84-76 win over the No. 12 Clemson Tigers to advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Playing their second game within 36 hours, the Tigers were unable to overcome the fatigue against the No. 5 seeded Mountaineers.
WVU got 19 points from Darryl Bryant, and Kevin Jones added 17 in the win.
The Mountaineers will play fourth-seeded Kentucky, a 59-57 winner over No. 13 seed Princeton, in the third round on Saturday.
Bryant’s four-point play and a long three-pointer by Jones that tied it 40-40 at the half highlighted a game-changing 28-8 run that enabled West Virginia to turn a 10-point deficit into a 57-47 lead. The closest Clemson (22-12) would get the rest of the way was three.
That’s when Dalton Pepper stepped up for West Virginia.
Spearheading the 1-3-1 defense the Mountaineers used to force Clemson into burning the clock while working for shots, the sophomore guard made two steals at mid-court that he turned into a dunk and layup. They allowed the Mountaineers to finish the job.
Joe Mazzulla scored 12 points for West Virginia, including two free throws that put the Mountaineers up 76-71 with 1:43 to go. Pepper’s steals on consecutive Clemson possessions thwarted any chance for a Tigers comeback.