NCAA Tournament: No. 4 West Virginia holds off No. 13 Bucknell

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Esa Ahmad scored 15 points and Nathan Adrian registered a double-double of 12 points and 10 boards in No. 4 West Virginia’s 86-80 win over No. 13 seed Bucknell in the first round in Buffalo.

The Mountaineers led for 38 minutes, but had a tight contest with the Bison. It appeared West Virginia was en route to blowing the game wide open after its defense held Bucknell without a point over the final 4:15 of the first half.

Up by a dozen in the early moments of the second half, the Bison began to rally, led by the sharpshooting of Kimbal Mackenzie, who ended with a game-high 23 points. The run was aided by West Virginia’s own offensive woes. Bucknell pushed the ball on every missed shot, resulting in several fast break 3-pointers. After cutting the deficit to three on several occasions, the Bison’s comeback attempt lost some momentum when Nana Foulland picked up his fourth foul. At that time, the 6-foot-9 junior, had 17 points with 9:37 remaining in regulation.

“Well, we weren’t very good today in pressure,” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins told reporters after the game. “He [Nathan Adrian]and J.C. [Jevon Carter] were pretty good. The rest of our guys kind of called it off way too early.”

West Virginia kept it at a two-possession game before closing it out from the free throw line.

Press Virginia wasn’t its normal self, getting beat up in transition by the Bison. But its depth did appear to get to Bucknell. Lamont West and Tarik Phillip combining for 31 points off the bench. West Virginia held a 37-5 edge in that department. The Mountaineers also dominated the offensive glass, cashing in on 20 second-chance points.

West Virginia advances to play No. 5 seed Notre Dame on Saturday. It’ll be an interesting matchup with the Mountaineers attempting to turn over a Fighting Irish squad that is one of the best at taking care of the ball.