Feb 18, 2003
By JOHN RABY
AP Sports Writer
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – – Dan Miller was having a lousy night – until the end of the game.
The senior forward was just 2-of-13 from the field, but his inside basket with 18 seconds left gave No. 12 Notre Dame a 56-55 victory over West Virginia on Tuesday night.
“He missed a lot of open shots, but to his credit, he was there at the end for us,” said Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey. “He’s hit a lot of big shots all year for us.”
Notre Dame (20-5, 8-3 Big East) earned its fourth straight 20-win season the hard way. Its last five games have been decided by six points or less.
“We’re making a habit of this,” Brey said.
Despite letting a 15-point lead slip away, the Irish stayed tied with Pittsburgh for second place in the West Division, one-half game behind first-place Syracuse. No. 15 Syracuse beat St. John’s 66-60 Tuesday night and No. 9 Pittsburgh beat Georgetown 82-67.
Matt Carroll led Notre Dame with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Chris Thomas added 13 points and Torin Francis had 11.
Drew Schifino had 19 points for the Mountaineers (13-10, 4-7), who lost their eighth straight to the Irish.
Notre Dame seemed to be in control after Carroll hit a 3-pointer for a 48-33 lead with 11:39 left in the game.
Brey knew that lead wouldn’t stick.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to win by double digits on the road. I don’t care what we’re ranked,” he said.
West Virginia clawed back despite being outrebounded badly for the second time by Notre Dame this season.
Freshman Joe Herber, whose mother and sister flew in from his native Germany to watch him play, made his only basket of the game to tie the score at 52 with 1:49 left.
Thomas hit a floater in the lane with 1:02 left. Freshman Kevin Pittsnogle’s 3-pointer 22 seconds later gave West Virginia its only lead of the game, 55-54.
Miller took a feed from Thomas and scored the game-winner from beneath the basket.
“I saw Chris driving, and I saw an open spot underneath. I’m not really the hero,” said Miller, who once was voted the “Unsung Hero” as a sophomore at Maryland. “It was a team effort. We did a great job defensively.”
Miller, who transferred to Notre Dame after three seasons at Maryland, finished with four points, 10 below his average. He missed all six of his 3-point attempts.
“It was frustrating, but you’ve got to keep playing,” Miller said. “I was getting great looks. They were just rimming out.”
Schifino missed two shots in the final 7 seconds around a missed free throw by Miller.
Notre Dame shot just 38.3 percent for the game, while West Virginia shot 40.4 percent.
Freshman Patrick Beilein had a career-high 13 points for West Virginia, which starts three freshmen and two sophomores.
After getting outrebounded 51-27 in their first meeting with Notre Dame, West Virginia coach John Beilein tried to figure out a way to even out that statistic.
Nothing worked. Pittsnogle, West Virginia’s tallest player and second-leading scorer, had just nine points and three rebounds in 27 minutes, and West Virginia was outrebounded 42-29.
“I thought we did a better job in the second half,” John Beilein said. “I don’t know if we can do anything about it until we get stronger in the offseason.”
The teams combined to attempt only 15 free throws.
The Mountaineers’ 14,000-seat arena was more than half empty. Classes at West Virginia were canceled for a second day Tuesday due to the recent winter storm, which dumped about 20 inches of snow in the area.