Thursday, March 25, 2010
Syracuse, N.Y. Da'Sean Butler shook off a sore right hand and helped West Virginia shake off feisty Washington to reach the East Regional finals.
Butler kept playing after hurting himself midway through the second half and scored 14 points while Kevin Jones added 18 and eight rebounds in leading the second-seeded Mountaineers over the 11th-seeded Huskies 69-56 Thursday night.
Coach Bob Huggins' Big East champions (30-6) won their ninth in a row and set a school record for victories, surpassing the mark set by the Jerry West-led 1958-59 team that lost in the NCAA championship game.
Justin Holiday scored 14 and added eight rebounds for the Huskies (26-10), who were at a disadvantage after leading scorer Quincy Pondexter picked up his third foul with 4:27 left in the first half. Pondexter didn't score his first basket until 2:30 into the second half, and finished with seven points.
Point guard Isaiah Thomas scored 13 before fouling out with 2:41 left. The Huskies had a nine-game win streak snapped. They were trying to become only the fourth school seeded 11th or lower to reach the round of eight.
The Mountaineers won their first game since point guard Darryl Bryant broke a bone in his right foot in practice on Tuesday. And it appeared to take an entire half for West Virginia to find its rhythm on offense.
Trailing by as many as six points late in the first half, the Mountaineers went ahead for good with 14:14 left in the second half, when Jones hit a 3-pointer to make it 39-37. That was part of an 11-1 spurt that was capped by Wellington Smith's putback after Casey Mitchell missed a shot from the outside.
The Mountaineers improved to 11-0 at neutral sites this season and held their sixth straight opponent to under 59 points, a stretch that dates to their 54-51 win over Cincinnati to open the Big East tournament.
This game's momentum turned midway through the second half, when the Mountaineers avoided a major scare and the Huskies lost their composure.
It began with a little over nine minutes left when Butler — the team's senior guard and leading scorer — fell hard to the floor and landed on his right arm. He was down on the court for a few minutes, and a gasp went up around the Carrier Dome once everyone realized it was Butler, who's made six game-winning shots in the final seconds already this season.
Butler, however, got up and continued playing, though he spent much of the next minute checking his hand and shaking it.
Whatever pain he felt didn't appear to bother Butler with 8:11 remaining, when he played a key role in blowing the game open.
Getting the ball at the top of the key, Butler drew a foul as he attempted to spin around Holiday. The whistle was late, which incensed Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar, who ripped off his sport coat in anger as he marched up the sideline toward the officials, who gave the coach a technical.
Devin Ebanks and Butler combined to hit all four free throws to provide the Mountaineers their largest lead, 56-43.
Washington had nothing in the second half, which it opened by missing 11 of its first 14 attempts, and finished the game shooting 22-for-56.
The high-tempo Huskies did control the pace by leading for most of the first half, taking advantage of the Mountaineers playing without Bryant.
While the Huskies ran the floor the Mountaineers at times looked lost.
Devin Ebanks and Butler shared the duties of getting the ball up court, but the Mountaineers at times lacked rhythm and were particularly sloppy in committing 13 turnovers in the first half alone — three more than they committed all game in a 68-59 win over Missouri on Sunday. They entered the game averaging only 11.6 turnovers.
The game was played on the home court of top-seeded Syracuse. The Orange lost to Butler 63-59 in Salt Lake City, and there were some mild boos when the score was announced at the Carrier Dome.