West Virginia 79, Notre Dame 68

  • February 18, 2009 10:18 PM
  • |
By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
February 18, 2009

West Virginia 79, notre dame 68
WVU Coliseum
Morgantown, W.va.
Notre Dame 40 28 68
West Virginia 42 37 79
Stat Comparison
FG Made-Att 25-54 27-62
FG Percentage 46.3% 43.5%
3P Made-Att 8-22 7-27
3P Percentage 36.4% 25.9%
FT Made-Att 10-20 18-27
FT Percentage 50.0% 66.7%
Rebounds 32 44
Turnovers 9 6
Top WVU Players
Top Scorer
Top Rebounder
Alex Ruoff
24 Points
Kevin Jones
10 Rebounds

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia smothered Notre Dame in the second half to record an important 79-68 victory on Wednesday evening at the WVU Coliseum.

The Mountaineers (18-8, 7-6) went back over .500 in conference play by clamping down on the Irish in the second half by using a man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone defense. WVU bothered the free-flowing Fighting Irish (14-11, 5-8), which shot only 33.3 percent (8 of 24) in the game’s final 20 minutes.

Stepping up for WVU was senior Alex Ruoff, who totaled 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting. It was the senior who shouldered the scoring load in the first half as the Mountaineers got behind by 10 early.

“He’s really worked. You have to give him tremendous credit,” Coach Bob Huggins said. “He shot the ball really well today, but he hadn’t shot the ball well before. He’s found ways to score. He’s become more versatile. He’s become maybe our best defender – period.”

Four double-figure scorers helped guide the Mountaineers to their fourth-straight home victory. Da’Sean Butler poured in 19 points and matched Ruoff for the team lead with four assists. Freshman Devin Ebanks continued his solid play, tallying 11 points and nine rebounds.

One of the biggest factors in WVU’s win was the hustle of freshman Kevin Jones. The freshman from Mount Vernon, N.Y., came off the bench to score 12 points and grab a team-high 10 boards in 24 minutes.

As a team, the Mountaineers dominated on the glass against the perimeter-oriented Fighting Irish. WVU posted a 44-32 advantage overall, including 17-7 a edge in offensive rebounds. Its low-post dominance led to the Mountaineers scoring on 16 second chance points.

“I reminded them we can’t shoot so we have to rebound. I thought Kevin (Jones) came in and really gave us a lot of energy,” Huggins said. “He really did a good job rebounding the ball and we moved the ball a little bit better. They were switching some things, which gave us some mismatches. We had some pretty good shots, but we didn’t make them. We weren’t in great position to rebound.”

Matched on conference leading scorer Luke Harangody for most of the contest, Wellington Smith put forth a workmanlike effort. The Summit, N.J., resident finished with 8 points, seven boards, three assists and two blocks.

The Mountaineers were aided tremendously by their good decision-making on offense. WVU committed a season-low six turnovers despite being aggressive enough to muster 27 free throw attempts.

WVU opened the second half with a key run, turning a two-point halftime lead into a 12-point advantage with 12:11 left. Ruoff ignited the stretch with a layup and a two-point jumper to give the Mountaineers a 58-46 lead.

The Mountaineers were able to maintain a double-digit lead for part of the second half. However, Notre Dame’s Kyle McAlarney nailed a momentum-breaking trey with 10:01 left to cut its deficit to 60-51.

With Notre Dame reducing the deficit to 64-60 with 4:26 remaining, the Mountaineers finished off the contest by scoring the game’s next eight points. Breaking the Irish rally was Ebanks, who started the run with a one-handed jumper in the lane to make it 66-60. An important basket by Jones followed by two made free throws apiece from Cam Thoroughman and Ruoff put the game out of reach for the Fighting Irish.

An entertaining back-and-forth battle was waged in the first half, as the Mountaineers fought back to take a 42-40 lead at intermission. The Fighting Irish shot 56.7 percent while the Mountaineers overcame a sluggish start to end the half shooting 48.6 percent.

With WVU down 16-6 with 14:38 left in the first half, Ruoff led the charge back with his 3-point touch. The Spring Hill, Fla., native posted 15 points with three treys through the first 20 minutes.

Butler gave the Mountaineers their first lead of the half at the end of the half, using an isolation play to get to the basket and finish with a one-handed runner.

“I was worried the whole game. That’s work,” Huggins added. “I got two degrees so I didn’t have to work and I’m up here sweating. We kind of got out of it on offense. We got a little bit tired, stagnant, and we stood around too much so we changed offenses. Devin (Ebanks) made a big basket. They threw it inside and he was able to score.”

The Mountaineers’ victory gives them a 10-2 mark at home for the season. WVU returns to the road on Sunday, Feb. 22, when it faces Rutgers. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.