Paulino's 3 KO'd bloodied Mountaineers

ATLANTA -- The blood wouldn't stop flowing from Kevin Pittsnogle's nose. It was everywhere -- his hands, his shirt, enmeshed in the straggles of his scruffy facial hair.

West Virginia was down by three, 68-65, after Pittsnogle took a blow to the face fighting Texas' LaMarcus Aldridge for a rebound. Pittsnogle was called for a foul on the play, and the Mountaineers appeared to be down and out as Pittsnogle had to race back to the bench to literally get repaired so he could get back on the court.

It was quite a scene, as was the whole final minute of Texas' 74-71 Sweet 16 win. And it would have been the story of the night if Gonzaga had not imploded in the final seconds against UCLA later Thursday night in Oakland.

On the bench, the trainer was working feverishly to get Pittsnogle ready. The clock was ticking, and West Virginia coach John Beilein was straining to see if Pittsnogle, the toughest matchup in the country, could get back on the court.

"I told them to give me something to get me back in there," Pittsnogle said. "I didn't care what they put up there. I didn't care if they had the right thing or not. I was pretty nervous I wouldn't get back out there."

There was one point where the gauze didn't do the trick, as blood continued to trickle through.

"I had blood on my hands, my shirt and they wouldn't let me back in, I kept cleaning it off so I could get back in," Pittsnogle said.

Pittsnogle made it back onto the court with 55 seconds left. After Texas' A.J. Abrams made two free throws for a 70-65 Longhorns lead with 27 seconds left, Mike Gansey buried a long 3-pointer to cut the lead to two. Then, after Aldridge made one free throw, Pittsnogle found an opening by slipping a screen at the top of the circle. With bloodstained gauze still stuffed up his nose, Pittsnogle popped out and buried a game-tying 3-pointer with five seconds left.

"All the Texas guys were saying, 'He's bleeding, he's bleeding,' but once I saw him come back in, I knew we had a chance," Gansey said. "When he hit that shot with five seconds, I thought we had a good chance."

But Texas was poised for the last-second shot. In a previous timeout, Texas coach Rick Barnes had instructed his team to push the ball as soon as West Virginia hit a 3-pointer, assuming they would. Without reservation, Abrams took an inbounds pass and was off. He weaved and bobbed and found Kenton Paulino open on the wing. Paulino made a tough catch of the pass and nailed the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"It's just a fog to me right now," Paulino said. "I'm not sure if it was contested or not. I was able to shoot it like a normal shot, though."

The warp-speed ending continued. The Texas players swarmed Paulino as the officials, who called the shot good, knew they had to review the play. West Virginia was stunned, hoping against hope that the shot was after the buzzer. Barnes said he wasn't sure at first when the shot was taken or if it was before the buzzer, but those at the scorer's table told him it was good. A replay was shown on the big board and Barnes reacted euphorically before the officials were done watching the replay on a sideline monitor.

Texas' run to the Elite Eight started in Dallas, where Barnes said a member of the selection committee's parting words to the coaches were: "Let's hope for a lot of buzzer beaters."

How prophetic. It was a wild ending to an unbelievable night of hoops in Atlanta that saw Duke dethroned, the end of J.J. Redick's and Shelden Williams' careers and the finale of a wonderful two-year run for five West Virginia senior starters whose achievements might not be matched in Morgantown for quite some time.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.