Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun opened the game with a technical foul and West Virginia’s Bob Huggins ended it with two.
Kemba Walker scored 21 points, including three free throws after Huggins’ last-minute technicals, to lead UConn over the No. 8 Mountaineers 73-62 on Monday night, the Huskies’ third win this season over a top 10 team. Jerome Dyson added 17 points and Stanley Robinson had 15 points and 13 rebounds for UConn (17-11, 7-8 Big East), which has won three straight to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive.
"That was an incredibly physical game, as most Big East games are," Calhoun said. "But we stuck in the fight and made some big plays and were able to win the game."
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The Huskies are 3-1 since Calhoun returned from a medical leave of absence. Connecticut was 3-4 during the 23 days he was gone.
Devin Ebanks had 17 points and nine rebounds to lead West Virginia (21-6, 10-5), which had to finish the game without Huggins, who was ejected in the final minute.
Calhoun called the game, in which 46 personal fouls were called, a "street fight."
UConn was 30 of 42 from the free throw line, including a 14-of-17 effort by Walker.
West Virginia was 12 of 23 from the free throw line and hit just four of 18 shots from 3-point range.
"We shot four free throws in the first half and two of those were technicals," Huggins said, referring to the technical called against Calhoun 47 seconds into the game. "We weren’t trying to foul. They shoot 42, we shoot 23. You can’t win."
UConn led by as many as 15 points in the first half, and by nine at halftime after outrebounding the Mountaineers 21-11.
West Virginia whittled away at the lead in the second half, and when Ebanks followed up a missed shot with 8:44 left they were down 53-52. But they were never able to take the lead.
"I think they just played harder than us and they wanted it more," Ebanks said. "They knew what was at stake and they played as hard as they could and they got the win."
It was 66-62 with just over a minute left when Calhoun called a timeout.
Robinson then followed up a missed layup by Dyson with a dunk, and Walker’s steal and dunk made it 70-62.
An irate Huggins received two technical fouls after calling a timeout, and Walker hit three of four free throws to ice the game.
"It was a huge win, a huge team win," Walker said. "At this point, we don’t know what’s going to happen for our future, so right now the only thing is to win."
UConn improved an NCAA tournament resume that also includes victories over then-no. 1 Texas last month and at then-No. 3 Villanova last week.
"We know we’re a great team," Robinson said. "We know we’re capable of beating any team in the country, but we have to take it one game at a time."
UConn lost 6-foot-11 Ater Majok to fouls with 5 minutes left and 6-10 Gavin Edwards fouled out less than a minute later with UConn up 63-56.
Smith fouled out for the Mountaineers with 2:55 left.
West Virginia quickly scored the game’s first five points, prompting Calhoun to call a timeout less than a minute into the game. He said something to official Michael Stephens that led to his technical foul.
"Suffice it to say I was ready for the game," Calhoun said. "I certainly didn’t try to do anything of that nature, but I wanted (the players) to know I was ready for the game."
Smith missed both free throws, and the Huskies responded by going on a 14-1 run. UConn scored 13 straight points midway through the half, and a short bank shot by Robinson gave the Huskies a 28-13 lead.
West Virginia responded with a 10-1 run, but trailed 37-28 at halftime.