Tough Loss for DePaul at West Virginia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When it comes to Joe Alexander, Coach John Beilein believes he can do a whole lot more by trying to do less. Sunday afternoon was a perfect example of that. By letting the game come to him, Alexander took it over and delivered the Mountaineers an important 64-52 Big East victory over DePaul at the Coliseum.

With West Virginia holding on to a seven-point lead and the shot clocking winding down with 1:47 remaining in the game, Alexander was left holding the ball well beyond the 3-point arc. He took a couple of dribbles to his right and launched up a 21-footer that drew nothing but net.

A reporter asked Alexander if he could make that shot again if he tried it. "No … never. I've never made it before actually," Alexander said with a straight face. "I just chucked it up.

"I'm kidding. I tried to shoot it. I practice it. It was a legitimate shot," he added.

Alexander wasn't done. Right after his 3, the 6-8 forward grabbed a 3-point miss by DePaul's Wilson Chandler, pushed the ball up the floor and wound up getting the ball back underneath the basket, where he flipped it in over 6-7 forward Marcus Heard . Heard fouled him on the play and Alexander coolly sank the free throw. Six points in 17 seconds. West Virginia 61, DePaul 48.

Game over.

"That sequence was really Da'Sean's (Butler) pass to me," Alexander said. "It wasn't something where I took over: it just happened that way."

Alexander finished with a career-high 23 points on 9 of 12 shooting – mostly drives to the basket. He also knocked down a pair of 3s and went 3 of 5 from the free throw line.

"He's not forcing things, but at shot-clock time he did a great job of finding some nooks and crannies against a very good defensive team," said Beilein.

DePaul's strategy was to take away West Virginia's 3-point shooters and dare the forwards to drive to the basket. Alexander and Alex Ruoff wound up scoring 23 of the Mountaineers' 37 first-half points.

"I was looking to drive and halfway through the drive I saw wide-open gaps and I was like I'm going straight to the hoop," Alexander said.

"One time they switched a ball screen and (Alexander) had a big guy on him and that's just a mismatch every time," Frank Young said. "He just did a good job of getting to the hole."

A key sequence in the game took place right before the end of the half. Trailing by nine after a Sammy Mejia lay-up, DePaul had a chance to cut even deeper into West Virginia's lead. Heard pulled down a Frank Young miss, drove the length of the court and tried a wild 3-point shot from the top of the key with nine seconds left.

The shot missed badly and came out deep to Darris Nichols, who pushed the ball up the floor and found Jamie Smalligan open under the basket for an easy lay-up ahead of the buzzer giving West Virginia an 11-point halftime lead.

DePaul's defense tightened in the second half. After an Alexander short jumper gave WVU a 39-26 lead to start the second half, the next 10 minutes saw the Mountaineers make all six of their points from the free throw line. A Draelon Burns 3 and a Chandler free throw pulled DePaul to within three, 45-42, with 10:15 remaining.

Leading 47-44, WVU got its margin back to eight with 5:29 left on a huge 3 from the wing by Young. It was West Virginia's first 3 of the second half and was one of only two Young hit for the game.

"That's part of the senior leadership that I try to have," Young said. "When went on a little bit of a dry spell and I was lucky enough to hit that big shot."

Ruoff finished with 12 points, four rebounds and seven assists for West Virginia, now 16-4, 5-3. The two sophomores scored 35 of West Virginia's 64 points.

"Everybody always talks about the ballyhooed impact freshman with all of the recruiting web sites that are so popular and I wish we would make more out of the kids who waited a year and are just getting into their sophomore and junior years," Beilein said. "We always talk about the great seniors and we always talk about the great freshmen, but not very often do we talk about the guy who waited his turn and just got his shot.

"I'm so happy those guys waited their turn, watched a good team play, and now there is some times when they remind me of the guys that played on those good teams," Beilein added.

The Mountaineers made 21 of 46 for 45.7 percent and was 8 of 19 from 3-point range for 42.1 percent. WVU was 14 of 19 from the free throw line while DePaul only went six times, making four.

Chandler led the Blue Demons with 11 while Mejia added 10. DePaul (12-10, 3-5) was 23 of 45 from the floor for 51.1 percent.

Official Box Score

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