WVU Erases the Rebels

  • December 04, 2008 12:20 AM
  • |
By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
December 3, 2008

West Virginia 80 Mississippi 78
tad smith coliseum
oxford, miss.
West Virginia 40 40 80
Mississippi 33 45 78
Stat Comparison
FG Made-Att 29-60 26-47
FG Percentage 48.3% 55.3%
3P Made-Att 6-21 8-17
3P Percentage 28.6% 47.1%
FT Made-Att 16-33 18-23
FT Percentage 48.5% 78.3%
Rebounds 31 23
Turnovers 10 11
Top WVU Players
Top Scorer
Top Rebounder
Da'Sean Butler
22 Points
Da'Sean Butler
10 Rebounds

The team that shoots 79 percent from the free throw line always beats the team that shoots 48 percent, right? Well, not tonight. West Virginia was able to overcome another horrible night at the charity stripe to edge Mississippi 80-78 Wednesday night in Oxford, Miss.

“We’ve got to start making some free throws,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.

Actually, it was Mississippi’s Chris Warren, a 91-percent free throw shooter, who missed a critical one-and-one with 25 seconds left and the Rebels leading by one that opened the door for the Mountaineers.

West Virginia’s Alex Ruoff was fouled by Deaundre Cranston with 18 seconds left and he made both free throws to put WVU back in the lead, 79-78.

After a Mississippi timeout, Warren had the basketball knocked off his leg by Joe Mazzulla to give the ball back to West Virginia with 7.8 seconds remaining. Huggins called timeout to get free throw shooters Josh Sowards and Jonnie West into the game and draw up a play underneath Mississippi’s basket.

Sowards got the inbounds pass and nearly got the ball to a wide open West for a lay up but he was fouled with 6.1 seconds remaining by Terrico White. Sowards made one of two, giving Mississippi an opportunity to either tie the game with a basket or win it with a 3.

Once again the ball was in Warren’s hands for the final play of the game and his difficult 3-point try well behind the arc missed everything as the clock expired.

“I told the team yesterday, ‘You should have to lose to learn,’” said Huggins. “We should learn every time we go out there and I think we did. We competed and we rebounded the ball when we had to rebound the ball. That was the critical thing.”

As was the case last Saturday in an 11-point loss to Kentucky, West Virginia took control of the game in the first half and could have had a much more comfortable margin if not for poor free throw shooting.

The Mountaineers missed eight first-half free throw attempts that could have extended their 40-33 halftime lead.

Mississippi used a 16-8 run during the first five minutes of the second half to take a 49-48 lead following a David Huertas 3, and eventually built its lead to five with 4:50 left after another Huertas 3.

John Flowers answered with a basket with 3:50 remaining, and Da’Sean Butler hit a pair of free throws to give West Virginia back the lead, 71-70. Another Flowers jumper and a critical Flowers 3 with 1:53 to gave WVU a two-point lead, 75-73. One of two at the line by Wellington Smith pushed the margin to three, but Warren answered with a 3 with 1:10 remaining to tie the game.

Warren scored again to put the Rebels back up by one after Darryl Bryant was only able to convert one of his two free throw tries with 58 seconds left.

West Virginia (5-1) finished the game 16 of 33 from the free throw line after hitting just 25 of 51 free throw attempts in two games in Las Vegas.

In six games the Mountaineers are now 102 of 175 from the foul line this year for 58.2 percent.

Butler led West Virginia with 22 points and 10 rebounds, hitting 9 of 13 from the floor and grabbing seven offensive rebounds. Ruoff scored 16 while Flowers (13) and Bryant (10) contributed double-figure efforts off the bench.

The Mountaineers had a 36-28 edge on the glass against Mississippi.

Huertas scored a game-high 23 points on 7 of 9 shooting for the Rebels. Warren finished with 18 points and four assists. White added 13 points and Holloway Murphy scored 11 for Mississippi, which drops to 5-2.

“They’re hard to guard. They’re very good,” Huggins said. “It was a hard game and I didn’t think there was too much flow to it.”

West Virginia’s Joe Mazzulla tried to tough out a shoulder injury to finish the game.

“Hopefully he’s got a stinger and it’s not more serious,” said Huggins. “He doesn’t have any feeling in his left hand and he still dribbles with his left hand even though he doesn’t have any feeling in it. I was trying to figure that out.

“There was no way Joe could have shot (free throws). He told me when it was a one-point game he said, ‘Coach I can’t get me arm up to shoot it.’ But he competed,” Huggins said.

West Virginia’s victory snapped Mississippi’s 25-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents.

“We’ve just got to get them to grow up and hopefully shoot it a little straighter,” Huggins said.

The Mountaineers have another difficult assignment on Saturday afternoon at 1 pm against Cleveland State at the WVU Coliseum. The Vikings are 5-2 so far this year and are coming off an impressive 66-42 victory against Valparaiso last Saturday. Cleveland State plays tomorrow night at home against Butler.

“Cleveland State is good. They were picked to win the Horizon and for people that don’t know anything about the Horizon, they just whipped Valpo by 20-some. I’ve played Valpo and it’s hard to get a win against Valpo,” Huggins said. “It’s the same league that Butler is in and I think basketball fans know who Butler is and what they’ve done in the NCAA tournament over the last few years.”