Freshman Da'Sean Butler had a sweet homecoming, scoring a career-high 17 points to help West Virginia to an 89-83 win over Rutgers on Wednesday.
With West Virginia
trailing 19-12, and reeling a bit from a flurry of lucky shots by the Knights, Butler came on and immediately steadied the Mountaineers. The New Jersey native hit a driving shot to cut the margin to five, then answered a Rutgers
hoop with a three-pointer. After a Mountaineer defensive stop, he nearly hit an acrobatic jumper while being fouled, and made one of his two chances to again reduce the deficit to 21-18.
Butler capped his first half performance with yet another three that sparked a 15-3 Mountaineer run, which put the Gold and Blue up by seven at 35-28. If that was all Butler did, it still might have been enough to earn player of the game honors. The slashing forward wasn't done yet, however, as he again came up with key shots in the second half to help WVU hold off the homestanding Scarlet Knights.
For the game, Butler was 6-9 from the field, including 2-3 from long range. He also made three of his four free throws, and had three rebounds.
WVU put five players in double figures, and needed every one of them to beat back the Scarlet Knights, who apparently saved up every bit of good shooting fortune a team is due for a year. Key among those Mountaineers in double figures was Darris Nichols, who hit four of five three-point attempts and was thisclose to having a perfect five for five.
In an unexpected shootout, West Virginia gunned down the Scarlet Kights by blistering the nets. WVU made an astounding 65.2% of its shots, including 14-21 from beyond the arc. That was just enough to hold off Rutgers' inside game, which was dominant on its end. The Jerseyans made 53.1% of their attempts, many of them from point-blank range against a somewhat passive Mountaineer defense.
Rutgers may have crippled its chances for a win by deliberately slowing the pace in the second half. On many possessions, the Scarlet Knights held the ball out front for 10-15 seconds before starting a play. While that might have been sound strategy comiing into the game, it certainly wasn't a good fit for the way the game unfolded. With Rutgers already in the bonus at the ten minute mark of the second half, the smart play might have been to force the pace, continue pounding the ball inside and get West Virginia in foul trouble, as both Frank Young and Alex Ruoff already had three at that point. By choosing not to do so, Rutgers coach Fred Hill might have removed his team's best chance to win.