Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mountaineers explore new territory; win first Big East Championship

WVU hoists their trophy in celebration. Coach Huggins and his tracksuit not pictured.

Last night after a close game fought until the bitter end, the West Virginia University Mountaineers (7) triumphed over the Georgetown Hoyas (22) in the last seconds of the game, claiming both victory and their first ever Big East Championship.

This was only the second time WVU ever reached the Big East championship game and is the school's first conference tournament victory since 1984 when it won the Atlantic 10.

The game-winning shot was scored by senior guard, Da'Sean Butler. He put the final, crucial 2 points on the board with 4.2 seconds remaining. Georgetown ran the ball back down to its end of the court, but missed the shot which could have tied the game and sent it into overtime. Butler posted 20 points total in the game, went 9 of 17 shooting, and was chosen as the tournament MVP.

Butler scored his 2,000th career point late in the first half thanks to a three-pointer which put the Mountaineers ahead 24-20. Butler's achievement solidified his place alongside fellow graduates Jerry West and Rod Hundley, the only two other WVU players to have scored as many points. This was Butler's second game-winning clincher. He sank a 3-pointer in the quarterfinals at the buzzer to win 54-51 over Cincinnati.

WVU squeaked through by the soles of the sneakers both literally and figuratively throughout the tournament, winning the semifinal game over Notre Dame 53-51. They won each round of the tournament by one basket.

This game was won because of WVU's solid defense and ability to quickly snatch rebounds. They also benefited from two four-minute stretches of game in which Gtown was unable to land a single shot.

The Mountaineers' starting lineup included Butler, Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones, Wellington Smith, and Truck Bryan. They were lead by Coach Bob Huggins who frantically directed his team courtside, refusing to let the importance of the championship dissuade him from wearing his signature tracksuit in favor of the business suits worn by other basketball coaches.

Oddly enough, third-seed WVU was the only one of the top four seed teams to survive the quarterfinal round. Syracuse, Villanova, and Pitt fell unexpectedly. Proving it had the best team in the Big East and consistently hailed as the most competitive conference in the NCAA, WVU enters the East bracket of the NCAA tournament as the #2 seed. I, for one, expect big things from this team, and expect to see them appearing in that tournament's championship game as well.

The WVU mens' team succeeded where their womens' hadn't. In the womens' Big East Championship game on Monday, WVU fell hard to UConn 60-32. That game was the Huskies' 72nd straight victory, the longest in NCAA history.

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