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Bryant, Pepper help West Virginia steal win over Clemson

Mar 17, 2011 - 9:12 PM Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Truck Bryant scored 19 points and Kevin Jones added 17, as West Virginia recovered from a slow start and earned an 84-76 victory over Clemson in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Joe Mazzulla chipped in 12 points, while Dalton Pepper finished with 10 and made three key steals in the closing minutes for West Virginia (21-11), which is making its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and last year reached the Final Four before losing to eventual champion Duke in the national semifinals.

The Mountaineers, seeded fifth in the East Region this year and one of 11 Big East teams to make the tournament, will next face Kentucky in the third round on Saturday.

Andre Young scored 22 for the Tigers (22-12), who had to win a first-round matchup against UAB in the new "First Four" format of the expanded 68-team field to reach the second round. Clemson played the late game on Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio and had to travel to Tampa with an early start on Thursday.

"I thought we played exceptionally well at the start," said Clemson head coach Brad Brownell. "They certainly made a nice run at the end of the half to tie it. Took a little bit of control in the second half, and we fought back. And then tough call late that went against us when we cut it to three, and they were able to make free throws, and then the bottom kind of fell out and they were able to win."

The Tigers led by as many as 10 in the first half before faltering and still haven't won two games in an NCAA Tournament since reaching the Sweet 16 in 1997.

West Virginia trailed throughout the opening half and finally tied it heading to the locker room at 40-40, then went in front for the first time on the opening possession of the second half thanks to a Jones tip-in.

The Mountaineers never trailed again, pushing the lead to 52-43 on a four- point play by Bryant. A tip-in by Pepper gave West Virginia a 59-47 cushion and the teams traded baskets for most of the next seven minutes before Tanner Smith canned a jumper to pull Clemson within 72-66 with just over three minutes remaining.

Jones answered Clemson's 5-0 spurt with a pair of free throws, but Young drilled a three-pointer and Smith knocked down two from the line with 1:49 left to pull the Tigers within 74-71.

Mazzulla countered with two from the stripe for West Virginia and Pepper followed with a pair of steals and two layups to quickly extend the Mountaineer lead to 80-71 with 1:18 to play. Pepper then forced another Clemson turnover, leading to one Bryant free throw for a 10-point edge with just 56.3 seconds on the clock.

"I honestly didn't even see what happened the first time," said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins about Pepper. "I was looking at what they were doing on the baseline, I wasn't watching the ball. But no, those were big for us."

A Young three-pointer pulled Clemson within seven, but that was close as the Tigers could get.

West Virginia came out cold and missed five of its first six shots as Clemson opened a quick 7-2 lead. The Tigers extended the margin to 16-6 before the Mountaineers closed to within 24-23 with 8:14 left in the half on a three- pointer by Jonnie West.

Clemson responded with 13 of the next 17 points and built a 37-27 advantage with 3:15 remaining on two Milton Jennings free throws. West Virginia, though, closed the half with a 13-3 burst and tied it at 40-40 just before the break on a Jones three-pointer.

Game Notes

Deniz Kilicli scored 11 points for West Virginia...Demontez Stitt had 16 points for Clemson, while Jerai Grant and Devin Booker each netted 13...Clemson's 40 first-half points were the most allowed by West Virginia this season...West Virginia last made as many as four straight NCAA Tournament appearances with a six-year run from 1955-60...The Mountaineers improved to 4-1 all-time against Clemson.