Gabe Osabuohien converted a Sean McNeil assist into a layup with 50 seconds remaining Wednesday night, allowing 15th-ranked West Virginia to outlast upset-minded South Dakota State 79-71 in the opening round of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D.
With the win, the Mountaineers move on to face either Virginia Commonwealth or Utah State in Thursday's semifinals in the eight-team, three-day affair.
The host Jackrabbits will play the loser of Wednesday's VCU-Utah State contest on Thursday in the consolation bracket.
Led by 17 points from Douglas Wilson and 16 from Noah Freidel, South Dakota State hung close to West Virginia for the entire 40 minutes, getting within 73-69 on a three-point play by Wilson with 1:50 to go.
The Jackrabbits had a chance to narrow the gap further, but Freidel misfired on a 3-pointer with 1:13 to go, after which Osabuohien converted his only hoop of the game to give the Mountaineers some breathing room in the final minute.
Miles McBride finished with a game-high 21 points for West Virginia, which returns its top three scorers from a 21-10 team that was ranked as high as 12th last season.
McNeil added 16 points and Taz Sherman 14 for the Mountaineers, while Derek Culver pulled a game-high 14 rebounds to complement seven points.
Baylor Scheierman (13 points) and Matt Dentlinger (10) also scored in double figures for South Dakota State, which was facing West Virginia for the first time.
Coming off a 22-10 season a year ago in which they topped 20 wins for the seventh time in the last nine seasons, the Jackrabbits led by as many as five points in the first half, taking a 19-14 advantage near the midpoint of the period on a three-point play by Wilson.
But in a half that featured eight lead changes and three ties, the Mountaineers gradually built a 37-32 advantage by the break thanks in large part to nine points from McBride over the final 10:02 of the period.
--Field Level Media