The Butler Did It!

By John Antonik for
February 3, 2007


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Da’Sean Butler scored a career-high 21 points to lead streaking West Virginia to an 81-70 victory over Seton Hall Saturday afternoon at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J.

  Seton Hall's Eugene Harvey, left, and West Virginia's Rob Summers scramble after a loose ball during first half of NCAA basketball Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007 in East Rutherford, N.J. West Virginia won 81-70.
AP photo/Bill Kostroun

Butler has scored 38 points in a pair of return trips to the Garden State. On Wednesday night, the Newark, N.J., native produced a team-high 17 points in West Virginia’s 89-83 victory at Rutgers.

“He certainly likes the Garden State,” said West Virginia coach John Beilein. “He’s got a great family and for him to come back here and play like this … (Assistant coach) Jerry Dunn is the guy that found Da’Sean Butler for us. He said, ‘You’ve just got to go and meet this kid.’ I said, ‘Even if he’s almost good enough we’re going to take him.’ Well, he’s better than almost good enough.”

Butler came up big at key moments for the Mountaineers when Seton Hall was cutting into their lead. Butler’s 3 from the corner with 10:33 left gave West Virginia a nine-point, 52-43 lead, and another 3 by Butler at the top of the key answered a Brian Laing basket to give WVU a double-digit advantage.

A Butler drive to the basket with 3:30 remaining stopped a 9-2 Seton Hall run and gave West Virginia an eight-point lead.

“He’s the type of player who is always trying to get better and I think the more games he plays the better he’s going to play,” said Butler’s teammate Darris Nichols.

West Virginia made 19 of 20 from the free throw line in the second half including 18 in a row. The Mountaineers jumped out to a 29-11 early lead and was performing surgery on Seton Hall's young defense. But the Pirates forced the Mountaineers to go on a seven-minute drought and used a 13-0 run to get back into the game.

“Their style is to make you turn it over,” Beilein said. “It’s normal, especially after three games in seven days, for you to say, ‘Will they just go away. Can they just stop pestering us?’ They’re not. I thought we took another step today in mental toughness of what it takes to win on the road.”

Backup center Jamie Smalligan finally got one to go down off the glass with 2:39 left in the half, and the Mountaineers managed a pair of lay ups from Butler and Rob Summers to take a 37-31 lead into the locker room at halftime.

West Virginia (18-4, 7-3) couldn’t do it from behind the 3-point arc on Saturday, hitting just 6 of 21. Instead it was a defense that made 10 steals and forced 19 Pirate turnovers.

“We didn’t shoot well from 3 so it’s one of those games like South Florida at home,” Beilein said. “We don’t win the Rutgers game the other night if we don’t shoot the heck out of the ball. Today we didn’t shoot the 3 and we still get the win. They guarded us well and they didn’t give us a lot of open shots.”

West Virginia got a big boost from its bench, especially New Martinsville walk-on guard Ted Talkington who was forced to play because of injuries to Devan Bawinkel (hand) and Joe Mazzulla (thigh). Talkington played five minutes and was credited with a steal and no turnovers.

“We had a little small ball we brought with us and I gave it to Ted Talkington as the game ball,” Beilein said. “He did a terrific job as did the whole team and I’m really proud of them. It was a quality road win.”

West Virginia’s starting back court of Nichols and Alex Ruoff played 39 and 36 minutes facing constant pressure. Nichols scored 16 points and was 10 of 10 from the line. Ruoff had only two points and was credited with five turnovers, but had a game-high eight assists playing against Seton Hall 6-foot guard Paul Gause who came into the game ranked fourth in the country averaging 3.2 steals per game.

“He’s going up against a 6-foot guard who is fourth in the country in steals,” Beilein said. “He has five turnovers but he’s got eight assists and we don’t win the game without his eight assists.”

Frank Young scored 17 points on 4 of 9 shooting, while Joe Alexander nearly missed a double-double scoring 13 and grabbing nine rebounds.

West Virginia was 26 of 55 shooting for 47 percent and was 23 of 25 from the line. The Mountaineers had 18 turnovers.

“You’ve got to take the 18 turnovers but the only way we were going to get the 18 assists was to attack,” Beilein said.

Seton Hall (12-10, 3-6) got a game-high 23 points from freshman Eugene Harvey and 22 from Brian Laing.

“It was a tough stretch playing three games in seven days and guys were a little tired but we sucked it up and got a win,” said Nichols.

West Virginia was winless in its last four tries at Seton Hall dating back to its last victory at Continental Airlines Arena in 2001.

The Mountaineers, winners of four straight, have a pair of games against Top 10 teams coming up next week. On Wednesday West Virginia faces No. 7 Pitt at the Coliseum before playing No. 5 UCLA on Saturday in its final non-conference game of the year.

“It’s definitely going to be a tough stretch and we’ve got to keep trying to get rest and stay focused,” Nichols said.

Because of tickets returned by Pitt, there are a limited number available for Wednesday night’s game against the Panthers and they can be purchased by calling the Mountaineer Ticket Office toll-free at 1-800-WVU GAME beginning Monday morning.

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