Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008 | 9:35 p.m.
There was little for Kentucky faithful to be excited about early on Saturday night in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena.
The Wildcats committed 13 first-half turnovers and shot only 26-percent from the field as they trailed West Virginia 26-16 at halftime.
But stingy defense and equally poor play by the Mountaineers allowed UK to pull even in the middle of the second half.
The Wildcats ran away with a 54-43 win thanks to near perfect free-throw shooting (23 of 25) down the stretch to the delight of the half full arena decked out in UK blue.
"I think the main thing is it's a great team win," said Kentucky coach Billy Gillespie. "Especially the way we came back in the second half, with them having all the momentum."
With 9:02 left in the second half, Patrick Patterson hit a pair of free throws to give the Wildcats their first lead.
Patterson, who scored 15 points, converted another free throw after a lay-up just under the five-minute mark to give the Wildcats the lead for good.
Jodie Meeks, the tourney's MVP, led all scorers with 19 points, while Josh Harrellson added 12 for the Wildcats, which improved to 4-2 on the year.
Alex Ruoff was the only player to reach double digits for the Mountaineers with 10 points, as West Virginia (4-1) lost for the first time.
Iowa 65, Kansas State 63
The Hawkeyes pulled out a nail-bitter as Cyrus Tate scored a layup just before the buzzer sounded to lift Iowa to victory over the Wildcats in the third-place game of the Las Vegas Invitational.
Jeff Peterson led Iowa (6-1) with 18 points, but it was Tate (10 points, seven rebounds) who drove the left side of the lane and put up the game-winner after faking out a KSU defender.
Jacob Pullen led Kansas State (5-2) with 22 points. Teammate Jamar Samuels scored a layup of his own in the final 10 seconds to tie the contest and bring the Wildcats back from a 13-point second-half deficit.
Oakland, Mich. 81, Southeast Missouri State 63
Erik Kangas hit six three-pointers for a game-high 18 points as Oakland took the fifth-place game.
Longwood 69, Delaware St. 65
Dana Smith scored a team-best 18 points while Billy Robinson Jr. added 15 for Longwood, which won a tightly contested seventh place game that was tied with a minute and half to play.
Junior forward Frisco Sandidge scored a career-high 21 points for Delaware State.