for this game

Nichols game-winner propels West Virginia into NIT title game

Mar 28, 2007 - 3:28 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) - With his parents in attendance and no more than a 3-point shot out of reach, perhaps it was appropriate Darris Nichols' sent his family home with a thrill.

Nichols' game-winner as time expired helped West Virginia overcome a 14-point second-half deficit and beat Mississippi State, 63-62, in a NIT semifinal showdown.

"And you know what, his dad and mom were sitting right there, just to the left, they were sitting there watching the whole thing, not more than 20 feet away," Mountaineers coach John Beilein said. "What a great thing for his parents, to come up from Radford (Virginia) and see that."

The junior combined with leading scorer Frank Young to score 33 points en route to its first NIT final since winning the tournament in 1942.

With 16 seconds left, Jamont Gordon missed the second of two free throws and Jamie Smalligan grabbed the rebound with the Mountaineers trailing, 62-60.

Nichols missed an initial shot from the arc with five seconds remaining, but West Virginia rebounded and called timeout. The lefthander then advanced around a screen, took a pass at the left corner and drained the game-winner.

"He had a habit in his first year, he always stepped on the line," Beilein said. "We would still be playing now if he was a freshman."

"The first option was Darris and the second one would have been Frank. We felt good about either one and Alex has to get credit for the pass," Beilein said. "I didn't dream up that play. That was given to me in a little bit of a coaching sit down and it's worked twice now, not to win a game but it's worked twice.

Trailing early in the second half, 44-30, the Mountaineers outscored the Bulldogs, 33-19, to close out the last 15:53 of the game. Nichols led the run with 13 points down the stretch.

Dietric Slater led the Bulldogs with 18 points.