West Virginia Escapes With Win

  • December 26, 2009 06:49 PM
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By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
December 26, 2009


  Devin Ebanks

NEWARK, N.J. – After blowing a 10-point lead with 58 seconds left in regulation, No. 6 West Virginia managed to squeak out a 90-84 victory over Seton Hall in overtime on Saturday afternoon at the Prudential Center.

West Virginia held a 75-65 advantage late, but missed two straight one-and-ones that Seton Hall converted for four points to make it 75-71. The Mountaineers (10-0, 1-0) then committed a turnover that resulted in a Jeremy Hazell 3-pointer with 16 seconds left. After Da'Sean Butler calmly sank two free throws, Hazell came back with a long-range 3 to tie the game at 77-77 with seven seconds left.

WVU responded well in overtime as Butler sank a 3-pointer from the wing and sophomore Devin Ebanks hit a running jumper in the lane to give WVU an early 82-77 lead. Seton Hall's inability to convert free throws and Kevin Jones' dagger 3-pointer from the wing with 37 seconds remaining gave the Mountaineers a seven-point advantage and too much of a lead for the Pirates to fight back against.

"We've been talking about trying to finish people off and not letting people up," coach Bob Huggins said. "We did a heck of a job early in the game, made shots and defended well. It's hard to understand. We kind of let them back in, and I just told them the biggest disappointment in this team is we have not made the scouting the most important thing. We have not made it that important."

West Virginia wasn't short of several outstanding individual performances. Ebanks, having to do much of the ball-handling against Seton Hall's full-court press, scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Butler added 21 points, six rebounds and six assists and Jones tallied 19 points and 14 rebounds. The Mount Vernon, N.Y., native went 8 of 14 from the field, including three key 3-pointers to give the Mountaineers a presence from outside.

Wellington Smith, coming off a career-high 19 points against Ole Miss on Wednesday night, added 7 points and seven rebounds. Smith helped give WVU a 63-57 lead on a 2-point basket, then created a bigger lead with a 3-pointer less than a minute later to make it 66-59 with 5:25 remaining.

West Virginia shot well throughout today's contest, going 29 of 61 (47.5 percent), including 8 of 22 (36.4 percent) from 3-point range. WVU outrebounded the Pirates (9-2, 0-1) 49-41, but Seton Hall's edge on the offensive glass created several second-chance points and extra possessions that kept it in the game.

"So much of that is because we had to help in penetration," Huggins said of WVU's offensive rebounding woes. "We have two guys trying to change the shot on penetration and there's nobody to rebound. We played Devin 45 minutes and played K.J. 40 minutes. We need other guys to step up and do some things for us."

West Virginia was aided in large part by Seton Hall's poor free throw shooting. The Pirates went 16 of 33 from the charity stripe, while WVU shot much better at 72.7 percent (24 of 33).

Hazell led the Pirates with 41 points on 14 of 33 shooting, while Herb Pope finished with 11 and Eugene Harvey added 10.

"We said that Jeremy Hazell without the ball is going to back-cut you. We let him back-cut us four times; we just watched him go," Huggins added. "There isn't anyone else in our league that will make the shots Jeremy Hazell made. The truth is we did a pretty good job because he was 14 of 33. When he sees the Old Gold and Blue, his eyes light up."

West Virginia scored on its first four possessions and took an early 15-3 advantage on a straightaway 3-pointer by Truck Bryant with 14:22 left in the first half.

Seton Hall began to claw back into the game, scoring three straight baskets to make it 15-9. Butler was able to stop the bleeding with a jumper, and Bryant followed with another mid-range basket to give the Mountaineers a 10-point lead.

The Pirates used their full-court press to force WVU into shooting quicker shots. Casey Mitchell’s 3-pointer from the corner and two Joe Mazzulla free throws gave West Virginia a 31-20 lead, but Seton Hall went on a 13-2 run capped by a long outside jumper from Hazell to knot the game at 33-33.

Center John Garcia’s put-back with 2:30 left in the first half gave Seton Hall its first lead at 35-34. John Flowers countered with two free throws, and Jones’ 3 from the wing broke a 6:14 scoreless field goal drought to give WVU a 39-35 lead. The Mountaineers eventually took a 41-39 halftime lead.

West Virginia resumes Big East play on Tuesday, Dec. 29, with a home game against Marquette. Tip off at the WVU Coliseum is at 7 p.m., with the game being aired on the Big East Network.