MORGANTOWN - Gary Browne didn't have much of a reputation when he arrived in the United States to play his senior season of high school basketball in Florida last winter, or when he arrived at West Virginia this summer.
After hitting two game-saving 3-pointers in his first months of college basketball, though, perhaps people will begin to take notice.
"In Puerto Rico [I made that shot] all the time,'' Browne said. "But nobody knows me like that because nobody goes to Puerto Rico to watch. Back home I always take that shot.''
Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum, Browne did it again. With Cincinnati's defense focused on Kevin Jones, Browne drilled a game-tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime and then made a key steal and layup in overtime to help West Virginia to a 77-74 win.
With the victory, the Mountaineers (15-5, 5-2 Big East) ended UC's seven-game Big East road win streak and stayed right in the middle of the logjam for second place in the league standings behind No. 1 Syracuse.
After blowing a nine-point first-half lead, West Virginia had to rally from a five-point deficit in the final 31/2 minutes to escape Cincinnati, which had won 10 of its last 11 games.
Jones, of course, had a big part in it, making a big 3-pointer with 1:51 to play to give WVU a 66-65 lead. The Big East's leading scorer and rebounder finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds.
But it was Browne who came through in the biggest clutch situation. Trailing 69-66 with 24.3 seconds to play, West Virginia ran a set designed either to get a quick two-point basket inside from Deniz Kilicli or, failing that, a tying 3-pointer from Jones.
There was just one problem. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin knew what was coming.
"Mick worked for me for 10 years,'' Huggins said. "From the way we lined up I think they knew what was coming.''
Cronin didn't disagree.
"We drew their play up during the timeout and they couldn't run it,'' Cronin said. "They've got a freshman guard just dribbling around and we just back away from him and let him shoot.''
Well, it wasn't exactly as easy as that. When the original play broke down, Browne found himself with the ball at the top of the key and Kilicli there to protect him. Browne stepped behind the 6-foot-9, 260-pound wall - "Deniz set a great screen. He kind of sealed two guys,'' Huggins said - and drained the tying 3 with 11.3 seconds to play.
"Deniz or K.J. was supposed to take the shot,'' said Browne, who a month ago sent a game against Missouri State in Las Vegas into overtime with a 3-pointer just ahead of the buzzer. "They were so concentrated on them that I was open.''
That didn't end things, of course, but it certainly put the momentum back on the side of the Mountaineers, playing in front of a sellout crowd of 14,070. Cincinnati had a chance at the end when Dion Dixon drove to the basket but couldn't convert the layup in heavy traffic. Keaton Miles rebounded for West Virginia and tossed the ball to Truck Bryant, who lost the ball.
During the scramble the clock stopped with 2.1 seconds to play. After reviewing the video, the officials determined that the clock should have kept running and so regulation time was declared ended.
WVU never trailed in the overtime, going up 73-69 on free throws by Jones and Jabarie Hinds, but Cincinnati never quit, getting a 3-pointer from Sean Kilpatrick - who hit a game-winning 3 to beat No. 11 Connecticut on Wednesday - to make it a one-point game.
The Bearcats (15-5, 5-2) had the ball again with a chance to take the lead when Browne came through again, stealing the ball cleanly and driving for a layup to make it 75-72 with 1:18 to go. It was 75-74 when Kilicli made a left-handed hook in the post with 32 seconds left to set the final score.
It wasn't over when Kilpatrick missed a 3 attempt, Jones rebounded and threw a long outlet to Bryant, either. Bryant, who was a miserable 2-for-16 shooting, lost the ball and the Bearcats had it with 13.6 seconds and down by three.
Inexplicably, though, Dixon dribbled away most of the clock and drove to the basket and attempted a dunk with about three seconds to play. That it missed was pretty much irrelevant because by that time two points did no good.
"He was going to take a quick layup if he could because, you know, they're not the best foul-shooting team that ever walked,'' Cronin said, referring to WVU's last-in-the-Big East free throw percentage. "But it didn't matter. We lost the game before that.''
In addition to Jones' 13th double-double of the season, West Virginia also got 13 points from Browne and Kilicli and 12 points, four assists and three steals from Hinds. Kilicli and Miles each had five assists.
Cincinnati got 17 points from Cashmere Wright, 12 each from Dixon and Kilpatrick and 10 points and 13 rebounds from Yancey Gates.
The Mountaineers are at St. John's Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden and then on Saturday afternoon face No. 1 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. They are home again a week from Monday for a Big Monday game with Pitt.
Cincinnati plays Syracuse at home Monday night.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.
West Virginia 77, Cincinnati 74, OT