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Young leads Mountaineers to second NIT title

Mar 30, 2007 - 5:06 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- If this was John Beilein's final game as West Virginia's coach, he won in signature fashion.

Frank Young scored 24 points and freshman De'Sean Butler added 20 as the Mountaineers defeated Clemson, 78-73, claiming their first National Invitation Tournament championship in 65 years.

Beilein is rumored to be the leading candidate to become the new coach at Michigan, replacing the recently fired Tommy Amaker. His perimeter-oriented offensive philosophy was at work once again, as West Virginia knocked down 12-of-20 3-point attempts.

"It was very tough," Tigers guard K.C. Rivers said. "Threes are worse than twos, especially in this type of game. When you come down score a two and they hit a three, you kind of got to figure out a way to get some stops."

Young hit 6-of-7 3-pointers, marking the third time during this postseason the senior hit at least six 3-pointers. For the tournament, Young averaged over 22 points per game and hit 69 percent (24-of-35) of his shots from the arc on his way to winning the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award.

"It was gratifying because you see how far I've come as a player," Young said. "I really took on that pressure (to lead) and just took that personally to try to lead the team. I think the trophy signifies that I did a pretty good job of leading this team and making sure I worked hard every day of the year."

"He works his tail off and guys get on a roll," Beilein said. "We've seen it in the past, we've seen (Kevin) Pittsnogle on a roll and it feeds off itself and the coaching staff and the players. This team loves him so much."

Butler shot 8-of-15 from the floor and added seven rebounds and semifinal hero Darris Nichols added 13 points for West Virginia, which clinched the second NIT championship for the school and their first since 1942.

"It's been a lot of fun to play in this tournament," Young said. "All of the emotions just built up as it went along. It was just a fun tournament to be in. Of course we wanted to be in the NCAA tournament but to win this tournament, all of the joy is still there. We're still happy about finishing our season with a win. We're just happy about all of the things we have accomplished this year."

A dunk by James Mays brought Clemson to within 26-24 with 4:13 remaining in the first half. Young then nailed consecutive 3-pointers, keying a 12-2 run to end the half.

Trailing 78-62, the Tigers made a furious rally in the final 44 seconds of the game by going on an 11-0 run triggered by Rivers' two 3-pointers in eight seconds - but got no closer than the final five-point margin.

Rivers scored 18 points and Vernon Hamilton contributed 16 for Clemson, which lost its first non-conference game this season. The team was attempting to set a new school record for wins. They were also trying to become the third straight team from South Carolina to win the NIT. South Carolina had won the past two title games.

    --- --- -----
    WEST VIRGINIA 38 40 78
    CLEMSON 26 47 73 FINAL

    Mar 29 8:58 PM


    Mar 29 7:49 PM
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    West Virginia vs. ClemsonMar 29 1:32 PM