Mountaineers Hold Off USF

  • January 17, 2009 03:48 PM
  • |

By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
January 17, 2009

South Florida 59, West Virginia 62
wvu coliseum
Morgantown, w.va.
South Florida 20 39 59
West Virginia 34 28 62
Stat Comparison
FG Made-Att 20-55 20-52
FG Percentage 36.4% 38.5%
3P Made-Att 3-16 6-14
3P Percentage 18.8% 42.9%
FT Made-Att 16-24 16-21
FT Percentage 66.7% 76.2%
Rebounds 38 35
Turnovers 11 8
Top WVU Players
Top Scorer
Top Scorer
 Da'Sean Butler
27 Points
Alex Ruoff
19 Points

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia overcame tough second half to squeak by USF, 62-59, on Saturday afternoon at the WVU Coliseum.

The Mountaineers (13-4, 2-2 Big East) were outscored 39-28 in the final 20 minutes, but held on to the lead thanks to some key plays by sophomore forward John Flowers.

Two free throws by USF guard Dominique Jones, who scored a game-high 35 points, allowed the Bulls (6-11, 1-4 Big East) to trim their once-double-digit deficit to 55-54 with 2:47 remaining. Two possessions later, Flowers, who already owns one clutch 3-point shot on the season at Ole Miss, was wide open on the left wing after Da'Sean Butler was double-teamed and drilled a 3 with two minutes left to extend WVU’s lead to 58-54.

WVU stopped the Bulls on their next possession and Alex Ruoff made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 59-54. USF’s Aris Williams then proceeded to drive in for a layup to keep the game at one possession.

After Ruoff’s two free throws extended WVU’s lead to 61-56, Jones once again hurt the Mountaineers with a 3-pointer from the right wing with 10 seconds left. Wellington Smith then made 1 of 2 free throws, but Jones was forced into a tough game-tying shot by Ruoff from beyond the arc as time expired.

Butler led WVU with 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting, coming one point shy of his career-high of 28 against Miami-Ohio on Dec. 20. Ruoff followed with 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting, as both veterans combined for nearly 75 percent of WVU’s points.

Jones’ 35 points at the WVU Coliseum were the highest by an opposing player since former Georgetown Hoya Mike Sweetney scored 35 in Morgantown on Jan. 12, 2003.

“Defensively I thought we were solid in the second half, but then we did things that I’ve never seen us do before. We’ve got to fix it, and we have to make them understand that there is a right way to play and a wrong way to play,” WVU Coach Bob Huggins said.

The game was certainly a defensive battle. WVU shot 36.4 percent (20-of-55) from the floor while the Bulls managed to shoot 38.5 percent (20-of-52). Both teams were not able to get any fastbreak points as well, a rarity in college basketball.

The Mountaineers were outrebounded 38-35, but took good care of the ball by having only eight turnovers. WVU also capitalized on USF turnovers, registering a 15-4 advantage in points off of turnovers.

With 16:19 left in the contest, Butler made good on a layup to give the Mountaineers a seemingly comfortable 40-25 lead. However, the Bulls cut the lead to single digits during a six-minute stretch, eventualy getting it to eight, 48-40, on two free throws from Jones.

“It’s about doing the right thing all the time. It’s not about doing the right thing some of the time. We’re just going to have to keep working to get better,” Huggins added.

A 3-pointer by Jesus Verdejo cut USF’s deficit to 49-45, and another two-point bucket by Williams cut WVU’s lead to two. WVU received a timely basket from Kevin Jones when he finally converted a flurry of WVU tips to make it 53-50 with 4:38 left.

Devin Ebanks led WVU with a game-high 10 rebounds, while Flowers and Smith finished with five boards apiece.

Butler was a one-man show through the game’s first 20 minutes, scoring half of WVU’s points as the Mountaineers led 34-20. The Newark, N.J., resident made 3 of 5 3-pointers as he scored 17 points to lead WVU at the break.

“We need to have somebody else come up and make a shot for us. John Flowers made that huge 3 for us,” Huggins said. “We had the game going and decided not to pass it. On four out of five trips in the second half, we shot on the first pass, and the lead goes from 14 down to eight.”

Trailing 12-7 with 12:35 on a Chris Howard layup, WVU went on a 27-8 run to end the half as Ruoff and Butler led the attack with an array of 3-pointers and dribble-drive layups.

Smith got into the act early, coming out of nowhere to score on a put-back dunk with 14:20 left in the first half. Ebanks scored his first basket with 2:17 left in the half on a soft one-handed jumper from the right side.

A bright spot for WVU was its free throw shooting. The Mountaineers made 16 of 21 (76.2 percent) from the charity stripe, while USF made 16 of 24 (66.7 percent).

WVU continues its Big East slate when it travels to No. 13 Georgetown on Thursday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m.

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