Kentucky ousts WVU, avenges Elite Eight loss
College Football Videos
TAMPA, Fla. — Joe Mazzulla put his hands on his knees and covered his face with his jersey as the horn sounded on West Virginia's season.
In the Mountaineers' noiseless locker room afterward, Cam Thoroughman kept his head in a towel adorned with NCAA Tournament logos as tears ran down his face.
No. 5 seed West Virginia couldn't repeat its Final Four feat of a year ago, losing Saturday to No. 4 seed Kentucky, 71-63, in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
"It was tough to cope with a loss when the final buzzer went off," Mazzulla said. "We had a great run this year. We overcame a lot of adversity as a team. Even though we didn't go out the way we wanted, it's easier to get over when you know you gave it your all."
Kentucky avenges last year's loss to West Virginia in the Elite Eight. The Wildcats face the winner of today's game between No. 8 seed George Mason and No. 1 seed Ohio State on Friday in Newark, N.J.
For West Virginia, the careers of six seniors — starters Mazzulla, Thoroughman and John Flowers, and bench players Casey Mitchell, Jonnie West and Kerwin Selby — are over.
They led the Mountaineers through multiple suspensions, injuries and departures this season and kept up with a Wildcats team filled with high school all-stars.
"I'm proud of all of these guys," Thoroughman said. "In the middle of the season when times got tough, we could've just laid it down and packed it in and went on home.
"But we didn't. We battled through it. It made us all better basketball players and better people."
Kentucky freshman guard Brandon Knight gave the Wildcats the edge they needed over Kentucky-killer Mazzulla, who was booed at the start of the game by a Kentucky-clad crowd for his performance in last year's Elite Eight. Knight scored a game-high 30 points, including seven of the team's last nine points all from the free-throw line, to best Mazzulla's team-high 20 points.
"He was really good," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "There's a reason why everybody recruits those guys."
After Mazzulla scored 15 points in the first half, Kentucky coach John Calipari assigned 6-foot-6 guard DeAndre Liggins to cover him and shut down West Virginia's offense. Mazzulla, who appeared to injure his back late in the first half, forcing him to limp at times in the second half, had just five points in the final 20 minutes.
"We just didn't pass the ball. We weren't as spread," Mazzulla said of the second half. "At a time like that, you have to play through (an injury). In the last few games of your career, it's just something that you have to shake off."
Trailing by eight points, Kentucky opened the second half on an 11-0 run to take a 44-41 lead and held the Mountaineers scoreless for six minutes, 14 seconds.
West Virginia used a 9-3 run to force Calipari to take a timeout. After that, the Wildcats finished on a 20-8 run to end the Mountaineers' season.
"I was really proud of how we played in those last five or six minutes," Calipari said.
West Virginia was outrebounded by eight in the second half and scored just 22 points after hitting for 41 in the first half. The Mountaineers shots 33.3 percent in the second half after making almost half of their shots in the first half.
"We had a couple wide-open looks from guys ... and they didn't go down for us," Huggins said.
"Maybe it will be a little easier tomorrow knowing that he's still playing," Huggins said. "It doesn't help today."
Junior point guard Truck Bryant added 15 points for West Virginia, and Mitchell had 11.
The Mountaineers struggled with Kentucky senior forward Josh Harrellson, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman forward and SEC Freshman of the Year Terrence Jones had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Homestead man wanted on child sex trafficking charges nabbed in Mississippi
- Mother of Wilkinsburg toddler found dead in ravine charged with her murder
- Policy to suspend employees with felony charges does not apply to Kane
- Subway suspends ties with spokesman after raid at home
- Uber lowers fares in Pittsburgh
- Starkey: Burnett writing incredible final chapter
- VA clears its Pittsburgh health system of latest Legionnaires’ accusations
- Armstrong families following trend when it comes to pets
- Pittsburgh councilman pushes bill to require paid sick leave for employees
- Two killed when F-16, small plane crash; jet pilot safe
- Derry Township Agricultural Fair to feature debut of Farmers Olympics