Guard Darrick Simms completed a three-point play with 35 seconds remaining tonight to lead Virginia to a 56-55 victory over West Virginia in a first-round National Invitation Tournament game.

When Virginia center Olden Polynice missed the first of a one-and-one situation, Simms, who was immediately to Polynice's left, came down with the ball. His followup shot and free throw put the Cavaliers ahead for good.

"I was just trying to get the rebound," said Simms. "I thought Olden was going to make it. Mel (Kennedy) tipped it and I just grabbed it."

West Virginia (20-9), which rallied from a 41-30 deficit with 10:57 remaining in the game, immediately called time. Guards Vernon Odom and J.J. Crawl passed the ball at the top of the key as the clock ticked down. Odom shot and missed with eight seconds remaining. The ball bounded out to Odom, but his 20-foot jumper at the buzzer fell short.

"I figured it would come down to a last-second shot," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland, whose next opponent will be announced after the completion of Friday's first-round NIT games. "Its a shame somebody has to lose a game like that; as long as we're on top of the score, I can take it a little better."

Holland joked that it was games like this that contributed to a digestive tract ailment that had caused him to be hospitalized during the season.

The Cavaliers (16-15) were led by Jim Miller's 16 points and nine rebounds and Polynice's eight points and 10 rebounds.

The Mountaineers began to cut the lead when Darrell Pinckney scored on consecutive offensive rebounds to make it 41-34 with 9:41 remaining. Dale Blaney (10 points) completed a three-point play to pull the Mountaineers to 41-37.

Virginia's Tim Mullen hit a free throw, but West Virginia scored eight straight points. When Blaney stole the ball and passed to Lester Rowe (team-high 13 points), who scored, the Mountaineers took their first lead of the second half at 43-42 with 5:32 remaining.

The Cavaliers' Tom Sheehey scored a layup and Miller, who drew boos every time he touched the ball in front of his home-state crowd of 9,736, made a three-point play to reestablish Virginia's lead, 47-45.