WVU Wins 76 Classic
By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
November 30, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Da’Sean Butler scored 26 points to lead eighth-ranked West Virginia to an 84-66 victory over Portland in the championship game of the 76 Classic at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday night.
The tournament title was West Virginia’s first in-season tournament title since 2001 when it captured the Hispanic College Fund Classic in New Mexico.
It took a while for the Mountaineers (5-0) to get going. West Virginia was just 2 of 12 shooting at the game’s outset and didn’t get control of the game until 10:09 remaining in the first half when a Kevin Jones 3 from the corner made it 13-12.
“We just didn’t make any shots early,” said Huggins. “We had good shots early – we had as good of shots as we had the whole game and we just didn’t make any of them.”
Another Jones 3 gave West Virginia an 18-14 lead and then Butler took over. Butler’s 2 with his foot on the 3-point line on the wing gave West Virginia a 23-18 lead. Then a Butler 3 from the top of the key made the lead eight and a Devin Ebanks fall away got the lead to 10.
“(Butler) came in and made huge shots for us and really got us going,” said Huggins. “When he kind of got the lid off the basket it kind of went down a little easier for everyone else.”
Ebanks second 3 came ahead of Kramer Knudson’s dunk to give West Virginia a 31-20 advantage just ahead of the 3:44 media timeout.
West Virginia led 39-25 at halftime.
“We kind of imposed our will on the glass and got up at halftime,” said Huggins. “I think rebounding the basketball was the key to the game.”
West Virginia had a 36-23 advantage on the glass.
In the second half the lead swelled to 22, 58-36, following a three-point play by Ebanks.
Portland (5-1) then began to chip away, getting seven straight points from T.J. Campbell wrapped around a 3 by Butler. West Virginia had a six-minute stretch without a field goal, allowing Portland to cut the lead to 10, 66-56, with 4:08 remaining on a Robin Smeulders dunk.
A Casey Mitchell free throw with 3:54 remaining stopped Portland’s 10-0 run. From that point Portland chose to send West Virginia to the line to try and extend the game.
West Virginia made 11 of 15 over the remaining 2:24.
Butler’s game-high 26, combined with 17 in the win Saturday against Texas A&M and 13 the first night against Long Beach State propelled him to tournament MVP honors. Butler is now 13th in career scoring at West Virginia with 1,532 points, passing Dale Blaney and Lester Rowe tonight.
“The thing about it is he can score so many ways,” said Huggins of Butler. “He can score off the bounce. He can score in the post. He makes the 3. He’s not a great percentage 3-point shooter but he makes big 3-point shots for us. When he kind of gets it going from 3 then he’s really hard to guard because that opens up his dribble drive.”
Kevin Jones finished with 17 points and six rebounds to join Butler on the all-tournament team.
“I thought Kevin played very, very well for us,” said Huggins.
Devin Ebanks scored 14 points despite making just 4 of 13 shots.
“Devin’s not Devin yet,” said Huggins. “I think against the zone Devin had three like about 6-footers that he just short-armed because he hasn’t played. We’ve got to get him in practice this week working and really get him back.”
Overall, West Virginia recovered to shoot 46.7 percent (28 of 60). The Mountaineers were 7 of 25 from 3.
Portland, which came into the game shooting 49 percent from 3, finished the game 5 of 24 from behind the arc.
“That’s a good basketball team,” said Huggins. “Anybody shooting 50 percent from the field and almost 50 percent from 3 is a good basketball team no matter who you play.”
Nik Raivio led the Pilots with 15 points.
The two teams combined to commit 45 fouls.
Portland already shows wins this year against UCLA, Oregon and Minnesota.
“The positive that you get from this is that we can still win against good people and not make shots because we’re starting to do the other things,” said Huggins.
West Virginia does not play again until Dec. 9 at the Coliseum against Duquesne in a game that will be televised by the Big East Network. In between, the Mountaineers will play an exhibition game against Charleston at the Coliseum on Saturday, Dec. 5. That game is a Coca-Cola WVAQ/WAJR Family Day.
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