Originally published March 21, 2010 at 04:12p.m., updated March 21, 2010 at 04:49p.m.
Buffalo, N.Y. Da'Sean Butler handled Missouri's pressure defense just fine and led West Virginia into the NCAA tournament's round of 16.
Butler accounted for 19 of his team's 30 points in the first half, then finished with 28 to lead the second-seeded Mountaineers to a 68-59 victory over 10th-seeded Missouri.
Kevin Jones had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Big East Conference champions.
Michael Dixon scored 15 points for Missouri (23-11), which was undone by an overall poor shooting performance. The Tigers went 20 of 61 from the field and were just as bad from the free-throw line, where they went 12 of 20.
West Virginia (29-6) advanced to face No. 11 seed Washington in the East Regional semifinals at Syracuse on Thursday. It marks the fifth time the Mountaineers reached the final 16, and first since 2008.
The Tigers were denied a chance to return to the round of 16 in consecutive seasons, after they reached the final 8 last year.
With the win, West Virginia matched a school record for victories set in 1958-59, the season the Mountaineers, led by Jerry West, went 29-5 and lost in the NCAA championship game.
It was a game in which the Mountaineers never trailed after taking an 8-0 lead 2 minutes in.
The Tigers stuck close, though.
Down 50-41 midway through the second half, Missouri clawed back to get within three points with 4:36 left when Zaire Taylor hit a 3-pointer. That was as close as they would come.
Butler hit two free throws at the other end. Then, after Missouri's Kim English missed a 3-point attempt and Keith Ramsey couldn't control the rebound, Devin Ebanks hit one of two free throws to put West Virginia up 59-53. Missouri then went 3 minutes without a field goal.
It was a rough and tumble game between two aggressive defenses. Missouri entered the game leading the nation in forced turnovers and steals, but couldn't rattle the Mountaineers.
West Virginia was efficient in handling the ball and committed only 10 turnovers.
The Mountaineers won despite going a stretch of 12:47 — spanning halftime — between field goals. The difference was they kept attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. They hit 11 of 14 attempts and actually extended their lead during the stretch between Ebanks hitting a jumper in the paint to put West Virginia up 23-17 with 9 minutes left in the first half to Darryl Bryant hitting a transition layup that made it 36-29 with 16:13 left in the game.
The Buffalo site remained immune to the Big East flameouts that occurred across the nation as both West Virginia joined conference rival Syracuse in advancing past the second round. Earlier Sunday, the top-seeded Orange had no difficulty dispatching Gonzaga 87-65.
After earning a tournament-high eight berths, the Big East entered play Sunday with only three teams left.
The Mountaineers controlled the pace, and had a response every time the Tigers threatened.
After Dixon hit a 3-pointer to cut West Virginia's lead to 44-41 with 12 minutes left, the Mountaineers immediately responded. Jones hit a 3-pointer on the next possession and then, after Mizzou's Ramsey missed a hook shot, Butler was fouled while taking a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws to make it 50-41.
Butler has been the Mountaineers' go-to player all season. He's the team's leading scorer, averaging 17.2 points, and has hit six game-winners, including a running jumper with 4 seconds left in a 60-58 win over Georgetown in the Big East championship game last weekend.