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Updated: Tuesday, February 18, 2003 10:11 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(10) Notre Dame 56, West Virginia 55
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
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WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
West Virginia Mountaineers
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MORGANTOWN, West Virginia (Ticker) -- Chris Thomas helped Dan Miller come through when it counted the most.

Thomas fed the struggling Miller for the go-ahead basket with 18 seconds remaining to lift 10th-ranked Notre Dame to a 56-55 Big East Conference victory over West Virginia.

The Fighting Irish's third leading scorer behind stars Matt Carroll and Thomas, Miller made just one of his first 12 shots before coming up with the game's biggest basket.

Thomas found Miller, who fought his way inside, and banked his shot in to give the Irish a 56-55 lead. Just 16 seconds earlier, 6-10 freshman Kevin Pittsnogle stepped outside and drilled a 3-pointer to give the Mountaineers their first lead of the contest.

"He (Miller) did a great job creating a gap," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We wanted to get the ball in his hands and let him find a way to the basket."

"I told Kevin that he was going to win the game for us tonight, and he almost did with that shot at the end," West Virginia coach John Beilein said.

Following a timeout, West Virginia went to Drew Schifino, who missed a tough runner. Miller followed by missing the front end of a 1-and-1 with 5.2 seconds left, leaving the door open for the Mountaineers.

But instead of using a timeout, the Mountaineers rushed the ball up court and Schifino missed an off-balance 3-pointer off the back of the rim as time expired.

Carroll scored 16 points and Thomas 10 of his 13 in the second half for Notre Dame (20-5, 8-3 Big East West), which reached the 20-win mark for the fourth straight season. The Fighting Irish also beat West Virginia for the eighth straight time.

Schifino finished with 19 points for the Mountaineers (13-10, 4-7), who rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit.

"That was a tough one, from my standpoint," Beilein said. "Notre Dame is a very good team, and we missed an awful lot of shots we should have made and we didn't finish a lot of shots we should have finished."

Thomas sank consecutive 3-pointers and Carroll also connected from beyond the arc to cap a 9-0 run and give the Fighting Irish their biggest lead at 48-33 with just under 13 minutes remaining.

But behind freshman Patrick Beilein and Schifino, the young Mountaineers showed their resiliency.

Beilein, the coach's son, scored nine points and Schifino six in 19-4 surge that tied the game at 52-52 with 1:50 left. Freshman Johannes Herber capped the burst with a 3-pointer, his only basket of the game.

Thomas gave the Irish the lead with 63 seconds left, hitting a pull-up jumper over the outstretched arm of Beilein. The 6-1 sophomore recovered from a rough first and finished 5-of-14 from the field. He scored three points on 1-of-8 shooting in the opening 20 minutes.

Thomas and backcourt mate Carroll combined to make all six of the Fighting Irish's six 3-pointers.

Carroll scored 10 points in the first half, helping Notre Dame to a 28-25 lead.


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