Boilin' On Broadway

Early on, it looked as though West Virginia's first round Big East Tournament game against Providence would play out very similar to the game against the Friars two weeks ago. But a funny thing happened on the way to the NIT: the Mountaineers began to boil.

With 7:07 remaining in the first half, the Friars held a comfortable 28-21 lead over what looked to be an outmatched West Virginia team. Friar guard Weyinmi Efejuku and center Herbert Hill had eight points apiece for PC, and other than senior forward Frank Young, the Mountaineers had no answer for Tim Welsh's team. Simply put, West Virginia was treading water in the World's Most Famous Arena. Luckily, they had a break to gather themselves as it was time for a TV timeout. From that point on, the Mountaineers were boiling. And the Friars? All they could do was feel the burn.

First it was a three from Frank Young. Then it was a tip-in by Joe Alexander. Then it was another three, this time from Alex Ruoff. At that point, the Mountaineers led 31-30. They would not trail again.

In West Virginia's previous game against Providence, the Mountaineers were an ice-cold nine for 41 from three. On Wednesday night, they shattered a 12-year old Big East Tournament record by connecting on 17 of 31 from downtown.

"(Providence) ended up going man," said head coach John Beilein, who now holds a 4-4 record in Big East Tournament play. "They were playing zone the entire time so we had one approach against the zone, and one approach if they played us man.

"We basically just tried to hit the open man," he continued. "We don't go in and say, hey, we are going to pound it inside or we are going to jack threes. We are going to come into a game and take what they give us and adjust throughout the game.

In the second half, the boiling boys from Morgantown didn't cool down. After sinking eight of 18 three-point shots in the first half, the Mountaineers were even better from downtown in the final frame, going nine for 13.

Providence was able to cut West Virginia's lead to 40-36 at the outset of the second half, but Beilein's boys quickly answered with a 13-2 run of their own.

It wasn't just Young doing the damage either. West Virginia's senior leader picked up his fourth personal foul at the 8:53 mark, with his team leading 66-60. With Young on the bench, the Mountaineers built their lead to 76-65 by the time he checked back in with under five minutes to play.

In Young's absence, freshman forward Wellington Smith had what was by far his best and most crucial performance of his rookie season. Smith, playing in front of countless friends and family from his close by hometown of Summit, N.J., scored 10 points in 10 minutes of play. Of his three made field goals, none were bigger than his three-pointer from the far wing with 1:27 left in the game. That trey put the Mountaineers up 13, and thwarted any hopes of a Providence comeback.

"Yeah, I mean, it's deflating, all of the threes, you add them all up," said Providence head coach Tim Welsh.

"Sometimes, we weren't there on time and other times I thought we made good efforts to get there and the ball just went in. I have to watch the tape but my general feeling, the contests were pretty much there. They did a good job of attacking."

When it was all said and done, West Virginia prevailed by a final of 92-79. The 92 points netted by the Mountaineers were the most points scored by a single team in the Big East Tournament since Boston College put up 93 in a 2001 win over Villanova.

Young led West Virginia (22-8) with 21 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Ruoff added 21 points and five assists for the Mountaineers. Junior point guard Darris Nichols was the fourth West Virginia player in double figures with 16 points. Nichols also added eight assists, and did not have a turnover against the intense pressure of Providence.

"We cannot say enough about him," said Ruoff of West Virginia's fearless floor general. "He is by far one of the best point guards in the country. There are things that he does that don't come out on paper, defensively and offensively."

Providence (18-12) was led by senior center Herbert Hill, and freshman guard Dwain Williams. Hill, the Big East's Most Improved Player, recorded his 13th double-double of the season with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Williams, who did not play against West Virginia in the contest a fortnight ago, finished with a career-high 21 points off the bench.

The Mountaineers will now play Louisville at 7:00 on Thursday night. The Cardinals earned a first round bye due to their second place regular season finish in the Big East.

West Virginia unveiled new shooting shirts prior to the game. Screened on the front of the shirts was the phrase "WEST VIRGINIA 212". Lately, Beilein has noted that 212 degrees is the temperature at which water boils. On Wednesday night in New York City, the Mountaineers boiled their way into the Big East quarterfinals, and possibly into the NCAA Tournament.

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