AU-Burned

Alex Ruoff's career-high 28 points helped power West Virginia to a dominant 88-59 win over Auburn Wednesday in the Big East-SEC challenge.

The Mountaineers (6-1) dissected Auburn (4-2) with outside shooting, interior excellence and a slashing, cutting offense that controlled the game and exploited virtually all Tiger weaknesses. WVU finished with advantages in rebounding, assists, turnovers – the Mountaineers forced 23 coming in, with AU averaging 17 – and steals. Ruoff's 10 of 12 performance from the field overall and six of eight 3-point shooting helped force Auburn out of a compact man-to-man and into defending the entire half court. That allowed for a bit better spacing, though that mattered little after WVU showed an early ability to do whatever it pleased on the offensive end.

The numbers backed WVU's control of the game. Three other players finished in double figures, including Joe Alexander with a very loud 17 points. Da'Sean Butler scored 13 and Joe Mazzulla came off the bench to add 11, according to Yahoo Sports.

West Virginia jumped to a 21-4 run via a myriad of moves not seen in quite sometime. The Mountaineers mentally and physically abused Auburn over the first eight-plus minutes, getting backdoor lay-ups, dunks, outside shooting and one-on-one baskets. Alexander had 10 points before 10 minutes were played. The junior was a microcosm of WVU itself, hitting jumpers, slashing to the basket, dunking over Tiger foes and using the glass to find the hoop. And his jam wasn't the most impressive. That nod went to Wellington Smith, who slashed the lane off a miss and threw down a ferocious dunk with 12:18 remaining in the opening period. It got worse from there, the lead going from 19-4 on Smith's dunk to even greater edges. He finished with seven points.

With a 23-6 lead with 10 minutes left, West Virginia's leading scorer got even more involved. Ruoff, whose previous career high was 23 points, drilled a long 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 26-6 edge. It was his second basket, the first coming on a backdoor. He then hit a goal tend break away hoop nearly 90 seconds later, which served largely as the culmination of among arguably the finest, and unquestionably the most dominant, first 12 minutes of basketball against a major foe than has been played in years by West Virginia.

Auburn, in trying to get back into the game via defense and turnovers, attempted to extend its man pressure well beyond the 3-point line. No dice. The pressure did cause WVU headaches in terms of getting the ball to the interior, but the long-range shooting ability reared its head. Ruoff made two 3-pointers sandwiched around Quantez Robertson's trey, and Mazulla provided an interior threat, driving to the hole for a score before Smith made a long two for a 38-16 lead with 3:45 left in the half.

The Mountaineers coasted from there and were ahead 44-27 at the break, with Ruoff and Alexander combining for 27 points to equalize the Tigers. Ruoff made all three 3-pointers made by WVU, which took six in all. Alexander had 12 points, the last off an alley-oop from Darris Nichols, and Ruoff had 15. Seven Mountaineers had assists in the first half of the eight that played.

Auburn turned the ball over six times in the first 10 minutes, and started just one of seven from the field. West Virginia allowed the first goal for a 2-0 deficit, but the Mountaineers responded, using stifling defense and the dominant yet opportunistic offense for advantages of 12-2 and 21-4. Runs of 12-0 and 8-0 spurred the leads, with Alexander essentially leading both charges. Auburn did manage a bucket to make it 21-6 with 11 minutes left before West Virginia outscored the Tigers 13-10 over the next seven minutes.

That spurt showed several AU changes, including the extended defense and a reliance not on offensive quickness but passing ability. The Tigers nailed three 3-pointers in six minutes, but didn't cut into the lead much. Their last three, with 12 seconds left in the half, made it 44-27.

The lead continued to grow in the second half. Mazzulla hit a lay-up in transition with 13:42 remaining that gave West Virginia a 62-33 edge. It was the biggest lead of the point, and the rebound, outlet pass and finished showed both WVU's power and finesse. With nine minutes left Ruoff made a three and two foul shots to secure his career high. Butler followed that with a lay-up and 3-pointer before Ruoff canned a another trey, this time falling away, for West Virginia's biggest lead of the game at 80-43with approximately five minutes left. Head coach Bob Huggins emptied the bench after that, with Ted Talkington – who had already been inserted well before that time – Jonnie West and others seeing action.

To its credit, Auburn shot 50 percent from the floor (26-52) and nailed six of 15 threes. But too many turnovers and a complete lack of containment on defense cost the Tigers their second game in six contests. Auburn, which somehow missed seven of eight foul shots, was led by Dewayne Reed's 19 points, six of which came late on two meaningless threes. Reed went a career-best five of 11 from behind the arc. Rasheem Barrett added 10 points for AU, which still had its starters in at the conclusion of the game.

The Mountaineers, who have scored the two largest victories in WVU Coliseum history in their last two home games, continue lead the nation in scoring margin. WVU shot 61 percent from the floor and committed only seven turnovers while forcing 20.


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