Men's Basketball

Butler Leads Comeback

By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
January 30, 2010


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Sometimes your star players need to play like stars. Such was the case Saturday from West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler, who scored a season-high 27 points, including the game’s final five points, to give the ninth-ranked Mountaineers a 77-74 come-from-behind victory over Louisville at the WVU Coliseum.

  Da'Sean Butler hits two free throws with six seconds left to seal West Virginia's 77-74 victory over Louisville Saturday at the WVU Coliseum.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo

Butler made 9 of 19 from the floor (4 of 9 from 3-point distance) and hit 5 of 7 free throws, including two big ones with six seconds left to give the Mountaineers a three-point lead.

“Da’Sean was absolutely terrific,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.

Louisville (13-8, 4-4) appeared to take control of the game midway through the first half after West Virginia scored the game’s first 13 points. Trailing 28-23 with 7:30 left in the first half, Louisville used a 19-8 run over the next six minutes to take a 42-36 lead on Peyton Siva’s 3. A jumper by Terrence Jennings with 58 seconds left gave the Cardinals a 44-37 advantage.

Devin Ebanks was able to hit one of two from the line, and then picked up a loose ball and made a twisting jump shot ahead of the halftime horn to close West Virginia’s deficit to four, 44-40, at the break.

Louisville’s sharp outside shooting continued in the second half (the Cardinals were 6 of 8 from 3 in the first half).

Consecutive baskets by Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles and Smith again built Louisville’s lead to eight. It swelled to 12 after another 3 by Silva and a Samardo Samuels basket with 10 minutes remaining.

Huggins, about out of ideas, went to a 1-3-1 defense to try and slow down Louisville’s shooters.

“We were running out of defenses to play,” said Huggins. “We started out pretty good and then they just got penetration and pitches against the man-to-man. “

Huggins then went to his point-drop defense and that didn’t slow the Cardinals down. The 1-3-1 was his last resort.

It worked.

“Instead of keeping Devin on the top we kind of flattened it out so it was a 1-3-1 with the ball on top and a 2-3 zone when the ball was on the side,” Huggins explained. “We can’t really play that 1-3-1 without Joe (Mazzulla) back there directing traffic.”

After Silva’s basket put Louisville ahead by 11 with 6:57 left, 3-point misses by Reginald Delk, Sosa and Knowles helped West Virginia (17-3, 6-2) close its margin to three, 70-67, with 3:29 remaining after a pair of Kevin Jones free throws.

Jones’ tied the game with 3:16 left when he was fouled by Jennings while making a baseline jumper. Jones’ free throw to complete the three-point play was his third of the game.

“KJ made a big shot,” said Huggins.

Samuels untied the game with a follow-up basket, and then Ebanks answered with a strong drive to the hoop. He was fouled by Delk on the play and converted the three-point play to give the Mountaineers a 73-72 lead with less than two minutes remaining.

Smith made two free throws when Jones foolishly put him on the line trying to follow his miss, but Butler answered with a jumper off a set play Huggins had designed during a West Virginia timeout.

Delk tried a 3 from the corner with 13 seconds left that glanced off the back of the rim. Ebanks and Jones were fighting for the rebound when Rakeem Buckles came in from behind and tried to retrieve the basketball. The ball went out of bounds and the official underneath the basket, Mike Kitts, was obstructed and couldn’t determine who touched the basketball last. All three officials went to the monitor and awarded the ball to West Virginia with 6.7 seconds left on the clock.

"I think it was more of a shot clock issue than anything," said Huggins. "If you looked up at the clock it was on zero."

Butler was fouled with 5.8 seconds remaining, sank both free throws, and Mike Marra’s wild 3-point try to tie the game missed everything.

This is the second time in a span of a week that West Virginia has come back from a double-digit deficit at home to win a game. Last week the Mountaineers trailed Ohio State by 12 at halftime.

“We compete,” said Huggins. “We do some bone-head things to put ourselves in situations where we have to compete.”

Louisville lost the game despite out-shooting West Virginia from the floor (51.9% to 40.0%) and tying the Mountaineers 33-33 on the glass.

If not for a 1-for-9 shooting stretch over the remaining 6:57 of the game, the Cardinals’ shooting percentage would have exceeded 60%. West Virginia won the game at the free throw line, going 26 of 35, including 15 of 21 in the second half. The Mountaineers were in the bonus with 15 minutes left in the game.

“I can’t keep doing this,” said Huggins. “This is hard.” Jones chipped in with 16 points and Wellington Smith added 12, including a couple of early 3s.

Ebanks contributed 9 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

“The biggest play of the game was Devin’s offensive rebound (with 45 seconds left and West Virginia trailing by one),” said Huggins. “We’re running a set, we didn’t run it very well and we didn’t get a good shot. Dev made a huge offensive rebound for us to give us another chance.”

Samuels and Delk had 16 points each to lead Louisville, now 1-5 in true road games this season. The Cardinals have also lost on the road at Pitt and Seton Hall in league action.

West Virginia’s victory snapped Louisville’s four-game winning streak in the series. The Mountaineers’ last victory over the Cardinals came in Morgantown in 2006.

“I can get our guys to play, I just get figure out how to get them to make shots,” said Huggins. “We’re going to try and figure that out.”

An announced crowd of 12,471 battled the snowy highways to attend today’s game.

“The crowd was great,” said Huggins. “They were kind of waiting as the rest of us were for us to kind of make a run.”

West Virginia returns to the Coliseum on Wednesday night to face Pitt in a 7 p.m. matchup. Freshman center Deniz Kilicli will be available for the game, having served his 20-game suspension for unknowingly playing in a foreign game with a professional player.