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Ramon's last-second 3-pointer lifts Pitt over West Virginia

Feb 8, 2008 - 4:43 AM PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- In a contest where offense was limited, Ronald Ramon made the most of a final attempt.

Ramon sank a 3-pointer as time expired to lift No. 25 Pittsburgh to a 55-54 victory over West Virginia in a Big East Conference matchup on Thursday.

With the Panthers trailing by two points after Alex Ruoff split two free throws with 9.5 seconds left, Ramon took an inbounds pass near the top of the top of the key before moving over to the left side and passing to Keith Benjamin back up top.

Noticing the shrinking clock, Benjamin made a drive - drawing Ramon's defender - before kicking out to Ramon, who calmly knocked down only his second field goal of the game.

"I was just hoping I got it off in time," Ramon said. "It just feels good."

"It was a big-time shot by a big-time player," Dixon said.

While Ramon was clearly the man of the hour, Dixon did not hesitate to credit Benjamin for creating the opening.

"Keith made the play with his penetration and that was the key," Dixon said. "Ronald made the shot, but Keith made the play."

"My instinct was to get to the basket because there was so little time and when I saw that Ron's (defensive) guy was in front of me, I decided to get it to (Ramon) and hoped that he got the shot off before the clock expired," Benjamin said. "I had no idea how much time was left."

Ramon finished with six points on 2-of-6 shooting from the 3-point arc and Benjamin and Sam Young had 10 points apiece for Pittsburgh (18-5, 6-4 Big East), which pulled out its second straight win at home despite shooting 40 percent (20-of-50) from the field.

"I think I was only 1-for-5 (from the field) at that time (before the winning shot)," Ramon said. "But Keith kicked the ball out to me when I wasn't shooting well. Him having confidence in me about knocking down shots, it says a lot about my teammates."

Behind a 10-3 run, Pittsburgh grabbed a 50-45 lead following a layup by freshman Brad Wanamaker with 4:30 remaining.

That lead was shortlived. West Virginia came back with eight consecutive points, including six from Darris Nichols. The senior guard banked in a 3-pointer with 2:13 left to give the Mountaineers a 51-50 edge and added a jumper 51 seconds later to make it a three-point game.

The Panthers came back with a basket on the other end as freshman DeJuan Blair tipped an inbounds pass to a wide-open Benjamin for a dunk.

After Nichols missed a shot from the arc, Pittsburgh had a chance to go ahead but Blair failed to hit the backboard when he attempted to convert a contested reverse layup. Blair, who had seven points and 12 rebounds, then fouled Rouff to stop the clock.

Nichols had 16 points and Joe Mazzulla added 15 for West Virginia (16-7, 5-5), which shot 36 percent (19-of-53) and went just 7-of-17 on free throws.

"I've been told that we're supposed to be a good shooting team and then we go 7-for-17 at the line," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "Pitt is a good defensive team, one of the best in the Big East, but they're not so good that we should miss shots that don't even hit the iron."

Capped by the last-second heroics of Ramon, the contest also featured a rare occurrence, as points were taken off the scoreboard for the Mountaineers.

After Blair was whistled for a foul off a miss free throw by Tyrell Biggs with 4:58 remaining, the officials incorrectly allowed Joe Alexander to attempt the 1-and-1, not freshman Cam Thoroughman.

Alexander went on to make both shots to pull the Mountaineers to within 48-47 before Dixon questioned the officials, who reviewed the play and decided to take both points away. Thoroughman then went to the line and missed the front end.

"Our assistant coaches saw it right away although I didn't see the foul so I wasn't sure who was supposed to be on the line," Dixon said. "The assistants told me the wrong guy was at the free-throw line. They said that (to the referees) before the free throws were hit. They let the officials know after the shots were taken and I was surprised that they checked it after they were taken. If the clock would have moved, (the officials) couldn't have checked it."

"I have never seen that happen in all the games that I have coached," Huggins said. "However, the coach who has over 600 career wins, recognized that the right decision was made by the officials who were allowed to make a correctable call while the clock was stopped." Searching for their third straight conference road win, the Mountaineers had a poor start, missing nine of their first 10 shots from the field over the opening 4 1/2 minutes.

However, the Panthers could not take advantage, as the game remained tied at 4-4 until West Virginia's Wellington Smith converted a layup with 15:02 remaining.

Two free throws by Da'Sean Butler gave the Mountaineers a 13-9 edge with 11:54 left, but the Panthers answered back with a 12-2 run behind four points from Blair.

West Virginia chipped away, pulling ahead 27-26 at the break after Nichols completed a layup with 42 seconds left.

Behind Nichols, the Mountaineers had a much different start to the second half, pulling ahead 35-28 after the guard capped an 8-2 run on a 3-pointer with 18:03 remaining.

Although Pittsburgh managed to retake the lead less than four minutes later, Joe Alexander followed a 3-pointer with a dunk to give West Virginia a 40-36 edge with 12:25 to go.

Trying to become the first opponent to win two games at the Petersen Events Center since it opened in 2002, the Mountaineers responded well after having those two points taken away, going on an 8-0 run to take a 53-50 lead on a jumper by Nichols with 1:22 to play.