Pirated Style

When it came to crunch time, No. 23 West Virginia gave Seton Hall a dose of its own medicine.

After allowing a 12-point lead to dwindle to 64-62 with 5:37 left, the Mountaineers used steals and Frank Young's seven points – part of his team-best 18 – to put together a 13-0 run that dashed upset hopes and sent Seton Hall to its sixth straight Big East loss, 81-71, on Saturday.

The Pirates, who lead the league in steals per game, threatened to win their third road contest in 11 tries this season before WVU converted steals on three consecutive possessions into the final six points of the push. That turned a one-possession game into a 77-62 West Virginia lead with 1:48 left. Young had two steals and a dunk in the spurt, and also added a 3-pointer during the run.

"When it comes down to crunch time, West Virginia, with its length, started to tighten up a little bit, and all of the sudden a couple of our moves turned into a flick and a deflection and a couple of steals and that's the difference," Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said. "They know how to close out games. That's why they have 19 (Division I) wins and we're really not there yet."

Young's 18 points led five players in double figures, just the third time this season that WVU has had that many score more than 10. The Mountaineers (20-6, 8-5 Big East) won for the 13th timer in 14 home games this season and reached 20 wins for the third consecutive season for the first time in 10 years, something unthinkable at the start of what most experts expected to be a rebuilding season.

"We know we're capable of getting steals and we were real active with our hands and confused them in the (1-3-1) zone," Young said. "I'm just trying to do things as a senior and a leader to help us seal the game. We want to get that win that gets us into the (NCAA) Tournament."

Seton Hall (12-13, 3-9) is still looking for the one that gets it into the Big East Tournament. It allowed WVU a season-high 12 steals and turned the ball over 15 times in dropping its second game to the Mountaineers in two weeks. The Pirates are just 1-7 in true road games this year, and have won just two of 11 away from home this season in falling into a tie with South Florida for 13th place in the league. Only the top 12 teams make the league tournament; Seton Hall will likely have to defeat South Florida on Feb. 24, then avoid an upset at Cincinnati in the regular season finale to have any chance of making it to the postseason.

"We made a lot of adjustments from the first game, and we did not want to get swept," Gonzales said. "We did not want to get swept. Our kids have a lot of pride, but (WVU is) a good team. The difference in the teams, when the game was hanging in the balance, was that they were at home. They had a sold-out crowd (12,249) and the confidence that they can win because they know they are good. That's a mental edge. "

Darris Nichols added 17 points and five assists while Joe Alexander and Alex Ruoff added 13 points each for WVU. Eleven of Alexander's came in a 17-5 push that turned a 14-11 deficit into a 28-19 lead with 5:42 left. He finished twice in transition off dunks and knocked down a 3-pointer and a turnaround jumper that banked in. Da'Sean Butler came off the bench to score 11, including nine in a five-plus minute stretch in the second half. He is the only Big East player to average 10-plus points and not start a game.

Eugene Harvey scored 19 points for Seton hall before fouling out with 41 seconds left. Nine of his points came in a three-minute stretch in which the Pirates trimmed a 10-point lead to six at 50-44 with 13:44 remaining, but he also had seven turnovers. Brian Laing added 16, and Paul Gause and Stan Gaines had 12 apiece.

The Pirates' Big East-worst scoring defense reared its head multiple times, when West Virginia, shooting 57.4 percent from the field, had runs of 17-5, 9-2 and 13-0 to offset allowing 40 points in the paint. The last run gave the Mountaineers their biggest lead of the game at 15. WVU has now led all but one Big East home game (Pitt) by at least 15 points and is winning games by an average of almost 20 points.

"I loved the way we responded to some adversity today," West Virginia coach John Beilein said. "We tried to pull away, and all the sudden they are back in the game twice. The third time, we kept them away. Frank Young was the key to that. He is a steadying influence out there."

The win was much-needed for West Virginia, which rebounded from an 18-point loss at No. 14 Georgetown on Monday to win in front of alumnus Jerry West, who had a bronze statue dedicated to him before the game. The Mountaineers, which also recognized West – the Memphis Grizzlies' president of basketball operations who set more than a dozen school records from 1956 to 1960 before a Hall of Fame NBA career – during the game, can make the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season for the first time in 19 seasons should it continue to win.

"You can manufacture 20 wins with a fairly good team sometimes," Beilein said. "But it's hard to get eight Big East wins. That's what feels good. I don't care if its West Virginia or whoever, eight wins is pretty good."

West Virginia plays its next two on the road, at Providence and Pitt, before the regular season finale' at home versus last-place Cincinnati.

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