Share This Page

WVU finds Final Four focus

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia didn't need Da'Sean Butler this time.

The Mountaineers used what coach Bob Huggins called a total team effort to beat No. 8 Purdue, 68-64, on Sunday afternoon at WVU Coliseum.

Fans from the capacity crowd rushed onto the court as the buzzer sounded, and Butler -- who was sitting behind the Mountaineers' bench -- stood and cheered as his former teammates celebrated less than a year after he led the team to the Final Four.

"Da'Sean used to take the ball, and he would make the play. In the beginning of the year, it was like, 'Where's Da'Sean?' " forward Deniz Kilicli said. "Now, we're getting used to it, and it's working."

West Virginia has won four straight, including two against ranked teams. (They won at then-No. 13 Georgetown last weekend.) After the game, players for the first time this season discussed their opportunity to make a second straight Final Four.

"We're starting to get confidence in ourselves and in everybody on this team," forward Kevin Jones said. "We know we have a lot of capable scorers, and we have a lot of guys that made big shots tonight."

Jones scored 17 points -- nine in the final 11 minutes -- and grabbed nine rebounds. Forward John Flowers had 15, and point guards Truck Bryant (12) and Joe Mazzulla (10) also reached double figures.

"I just put it on myself to be more aggressive," Jones said. "Our team needed a spark ... and that's what I did."

Purdue's Rhyne Smith missed a 3-pointer with eight seconds to go, and Bryant hit two free throws to build a four-point lead with four seconds to go. A jumper by JaJuan Johnson -- who finished with a game-high 26 points -- with two seconds left kept the Boilermakers' hopes alive, but Flowers made the first of two free throws to seal the victory.

The Mountaineers had to fight back in the second half. They were down by six points with less than 12 minutes to play, but an 8-2 run put them up, 52-50.

"We've been through this before," said Bryant, citing last year's Final Four run. "We're an experienced bunch, and we know what we're doing out there in the clutch."

West Virginia made clutch shots down the stretch in a game that included 11 lead changes, seven ties and no lead greater than six points. After 13 turnovers in the first half, the Mountaineers committed only three in the second.

"That's the reason why we won the game today," Bryant said.

The Mountaineers also dominated the boards, posting a 37-29 edge.

"We're offensively challenged, but defensively we played pretty well," Huggins said. "We've gotten much better defensively."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.