Desean Murray scored the go-ahead dunk with 1:05 remaining and Western Kentucky hung on to sink West Virginia 63-57 on Friday night in Conway, S.C., booking a spot in the championship game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.
The Hilltoppers (2-1), who shot just 31.5 percent and managed only four assists on 17 made field goals, will play in the championship game on Sunday against UCF, who dispatched Saint Joseph’s 77-57 earlier Friday.
The Mountaineers (1-2), who shot 34 percent and committed 22 turnovers, will face Saint Joseph’s earlier Sunday in a consolation game. They lost their opener to Buffalo, 99-94, last Friday.
Murray tallied all five of his points in the final 3:19, including a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left — after he had missed four attempts in the previous three minutes — for the final margin. Moments earlier, he missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 with WKU leading 61-57, but Esa Ahmad missed a 3-pointer for West Virginia, and it was all but over.
Taveion Hollingsworth and Charles Bassey — who added a game-high 15 rebounds — shared the game high with 13 points. Josh Anderson, who assisted on Murray’s go-ahead bucket, scored 12 for the Hilltoppers, and Jared Savage had 11.
West Virginia was led by Ahmad with 12 points, but he had just two after halftime. James Bolden, who had a turnover and missed three-pointer in the final minute, finished with 10.
Down 35-33 at the break, Western Kentucky started the second half with an 11-4 run, punctuated by an Anderson dunk, to take a five-point edge with 13:46 remaining. Things see-sawed from there, as West Virginia inched ahead on two occasions before the Hilltoppers scored seven in a row for a 57-51 lead with 2:42 remaining.
But the Mountaineers fought back with six straight points to forge a tie at 57-all with 1:27 left, before WKU scored the final six.
West Virginia led by six with 90 seconds to go before halftime, but four quick points by Tolu Smith cut the advantage to two at the break. The Mountaineers shot 44.0 percent in the first half. The Hilltoppers shot just 36.4 percent, and Bassey led the way with nine points and eight rebounds.
Five early points from Ahmad gave West Virginia an 8-2 edge, but WKU responded with a 13-3 run to lead 15-11. The Mountaineers responded with nine straight points to surge back in front, but couldn’t stretch the lead past five before halftime.
—Field Level Media