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Griffins give Mountaineers a scare Canisius comeback falls short

It was reasonable to expect a 1-7 Canisius team to get blown out Friday night when it played No. 25 West Virginia in its first game against a ranked team in two years.

And for 29 minutes, things were going entirely to form as the Mountaineers buried the Golden Griffins from long range and built a 28-point lead.

Then everything changed. The Canisius offense started connecting from inside and outside while West Virginia started to misfire.

The Griffs actually got the margin down to just six points in the final minute before finally succumbing, 80-68, in front of a sellout crowd of 9,744 at WVU Coliseum.

"We loosened up, relaxed and played," said Canisius coach Mike MacDonald. "They had hit some incredible shots (in the first half) and that's what they do. We let that get to us a little bit but in the second half, we didn't care if they made a shot.

West Virginia center Kevin Pittsnogle poured in a career-high 34 points, hitting 4 of 5 three-pointers, but had just two points in the final eight minutes. Former St. Bonaventure star Mike Gansey added 15.

"I thought we put on a pretty good clinic for most of the game," said West Virginia coach John Beilein, the head man at Canisius from 1992-97.

West Virginia (8-3) finished the first half on a 28-7 run to take a seemingly comfortable 41-21 lead into the break. The Mountaineers were breezing in the second half and took a 64-36 lead on a Gansey putback with 11:28 to go before Canisius mounted its charge as West Virginia committed seven turnovers.

The Griffs were down, 70-56, with four minutes left before a three-pointer by Chuck Harris and two free throws from Darnell Wilson got the lead into single digits at 70-61.

"We became mentally sloppy during that stretch," Beilein said.

The Griffs twice got the deficit down to seven and then pulled within six (74-68) on Harris' conventional three-point play with 41.7 seconds left but West Virginia closed the game with six free throws.

Harris led Canisius with 16 points and was a catalyst on the Griffs' second-half run. Wilson and Corey Herring added 14 points apiece while Kevin Downey had 10.

Canisius hit 17 of 32 from the field in the second half (5 of 11 three-pointers) after connecting on just 9 of 26 in the first half.

It was the first meeting for MacDonald against Beilein, his former boss.

"I didn't think about it. It's not like I was looking down there (at the West Virginia bench) every time," MacDonald said. "One time out of a timeout we ran a play and they ran the exact same play the next possession. That was kind of ironic."

Canisius' next game is another non-league affair Wednesday at Brown.

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