Alex Ruoff's career-high 28 points against Auburn made him our choice for the player of the game as the Mountaineers crushed Auburn by the score of 88-59 in the Big East - SEC Invitational.
Ruoff made every shot he attempted in the first half as WVU ran out to a commanding 44-27 lead at the break. He was a perfect 6-6 from the field, and had a streak of 11 consecutive points, including a trio of three pointers, as the Mountaineers ran the Tigers out of the Birmingham-Jefferson arena.
Ruoff didn't cool off much in the second half, finishing 10-12 from the floor for a total of 28 points. Included in that total were six three-pointers in eight tries and a pair of free throws, but that wasn't the only measure of his contribution. He had two rebounds, three assists and three steals, and did not suffer a turnover.
Were it not for Ruoff's transcendent run, Joe Alexander certainly put up numbers that could have garnered game honors. The junior was dominant in the first half as he helped spark West Virginia to a 21-2 run in the early going. Alexander scored ten of WVU's first 23 points on a variety of moves, including a high-flying dunk off a lob pass in which he had his entire head above the rim.
Alexander had a fine stat line as well, adding three rebounds, four assists and two steals to the Mountaineer effort. He also showed great patience and decision-making when handling the ball on the perimeter. He took only one shot that might be termed questionable, and made several good passes to keep the offense in gear.
Wellington Smith also earned a spot on the honor list for his defensive play and intimidation. Smith blocked shots in both halves, and his presences altered weveral other Auburn shots as well. Smith roared down the lane to block a pair of shots, and also rejected another after an Auburn offensive rebound. WVU was credited with just six blocks in the game, a total that was far short of the actual total.
Auburn did everything it could to speed the pace of the game, but West Virginia's transition defense kept the Tigers from getting into an uptempo attack. Even while crashing the offensive glass, WVU again showed the ability to get back on the defensive end and prevent quick scoring opportunities for its foes. Auburn's transition scoring was limited by WVU's defensive mindset, and the Tigers were unable to put together any sort of offense until the game was well in hand. The Tigers tried to up the tempo by trapping at halfcourt and extending its man-to-man defense across that line on occasion, but were unable to generate more than a couple of fast break opportunities on the evening.
The win completed an opening two game sweep for the Big East over the SEC. Georgetown defeated a scrappy Alabama team in the opener in Birmingham. A handful of Alabama fans stayed to cheer for West Virginia in the nightcap.