Buzzer-beater lifts WVU at Big East Tourney
NEW YORK — Da'Sean Butler hit his fifth game-winning shot of the season Thursday to defeat Cincinnati 54-51 in the quarterfinals of the Big East Conference Tournament.
Butler took an inbounds pass with 3.1 seconds, rose above two Bearcat defenders and banked in a 3-pointer to send the Mountaineers to the semifinals of the tournament to play Notre Dame at 9:30 tonight.
"I saw it hit the glass, and I thought, 'Oh, it's fine,'" Butler said. "This is really good, especially being here in a historic gym. A lot of great players play here."
With 6.4 seconds left, Cincinnati inbounded to Dion Dixon, who fumbled the ball away to West Virginia with 3.1 seconds, giving Butler a chance at the game winner.
Butler finished with 15 points and six rebounds. WVU forward Kevin Jones led the Mountaineers with 17 points.
"For me to get an opportunity to come here and for my team to pick up the win and for me to showcase what I can do and what my teammates can do, especially at the last second, that was cool," Butler said. "I enjoyed it."
After three of the top four teams in the Big East lost their first games at Madison Square Garden, third-seeded West Virginia had its work cut out for it.
The Mountaineers were the lone team with a double-bye to advance to the semifinals after Syracuse, Villanova and Pitts lost earlier in the day.
"We didn't want to end up like them," Jones said. "That's why we came out and played hard the way we did."
WVU used a quick start in the first and second halves, while Cincinnati had droughts from the field of more than 10 minutes in the first half and seven in the second half to help the Mountaineers.
WVU jumped out to an 18-4 lead in the first half, as the Mountaineer man-to-man defense stifled the Cincinnati offense. But the Bearcats would eventually find their form later in the half, as they climbed all the way back to tie the game at 23 with 31 seconds to play in the half.
"We just stood still a lot," Butler said. "Instead of passing the ball and doing things that got us the lead, we kind of strayed away from that and were making two passes and taking quick shots."
WVU took a 26-23 lead into the locker room after reserve guard Jonnie West hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Cincinnati came out in the second half in similar fashion as it started the game — struggling on offense.
The Bearcats would not score for the first 7:23 of the second half before Yancy Gates scored a layup off a post move.
WVU took a nine-point lead before Cincinnati eventually made its comeback. The Bearcats scored nine straight to tie the game at 47. Cincinnati, however, would never take a lead in the game.
The Mountaineers were held to 35 percent shooting, which frustrated WVU coach Bob Huggins.
"I thought we would make more shots than we did, honestly," Huggins said. "But (the Bearcats) do a great job."
Cincinnati's Lance Stephenson led all scorers with 19 points. He also had seven rebounds.
Gates stepped up in the second half for Cincinnati after going scoreless in the first 20 minutes. He finished with 11 points.