Kentucky appeared to be headed for certain defeat Saturday in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational.
The Wildcats couldn’t score, couldn’t take care of the basketball and were on the verge of being run out of the Orleans Arena by West Virginia.
But suddenly, it was the Mountaineers who couldn’t make a shot or keep a handle on things. In a matter of minutes, the Wildcats managed to overtake the Mountaineers and win the title, 54-43, before an announced crowd of 5,500.
Once again, Billy Gillispie’s team turned it over far too often. Kentucky (4-2) is averaging 23 miscues a game and had 23 against the Mountaineers. But West Virginia (4-1), which lost for the first time this year, had its own safekeeping issues, committing 16 turnovers.
The mistakes also contributed to both teams’ offensive woes. Kentucky struggled to find a rhythm in the first half as the Wildcats were limited to just 16 points in trailing 26-16 at intermission.
West Virginia had trouble converting in the second half. The Mountaineers were impatient — West Virginia was only 1 of 8 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes and just 3 of 18 overall.
West Virginia managed just one field goal and seven points over the final 7:12.
Kentucky won despite Jodie Meeks, its leading scorer, having a tough night.
West Virginia was not going to let Meeks dominate the way he did the night before when he had 37 points against Kansas State. He was shadowed everywhere on the court and when he managed to get loose, West Virginia ran another defender at him.
Meeks had just six points at halftime but finished with 17 and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The Wildcats took the lead, 39-36, on a pair of Patterson free throws and a 20-foot jumper by former Findlay Prep guard DeAndre Liggins to cap a 19-4 run.
Meeks picked up his fourth foul during the surge and he was benched with 8:19 to go.
Patterson also picked up his fourth foul with just under six minutes left.
He and Meeks managed to stay on the court and together with backup forward Josh Harrellson, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, kept Kentucky ahead down the stretch.
Harrellson and Patterson, who finished with 15 points and 10 boards, joined Meeks on the all-tournament team along with West Virginia’s Alex Ruoff and Darryl Bryant. Ruoff was the lone Mountaineer to finish in double figures as he had 10 points.
* Iowa 65, Kansas State 63 — Cyrus Tate’s layup beat the final buzzer to give the Hawkeyes (6-1) the win and third place in the tournament.
Jamar Samuels’ tip-in with seven seconds left tied the game at 63 for the Wildcats (5-2). But Iowa quickly inbounded with Jeff Peterson getting the ball to Jake Kelly, who made a nice entry pass down low to a wide-open Tate.
Peterson led Iowa with 18 points. Kansas State, which shot just 53 percent from the free-throw line (16 of 30) was led by Jacob Pullen’s 22 points.
* Oakland 81, Southeast Missouri State 63 — Erik Kangas scored 18 points to lead all scorers as Oakland improved to 3-4. Southeast Missouri (2-4) made just 3 of 23 3-point field goal attempts.
* Longwood 69, Delaware State 65 — Dana Smith’s 18 points helped the Lancers (4-4) break a two-game losing streak. Delaware State (1-8) dropped its eighth straight game.