After each contest, the staff of BlueGoldNews.com selects a player of the game and highlights outstanding performances or statistics.
With leading scorer and rebounder Joe Alexander unable to go on Sunday afternoon in Tampa with a groin injury, the Mountaineers needed someone to fill Alexander's role as a frontcourt scorer while also holding the Bulls at bay on the boards.
Sophomore forward Da'Sean Butler played that part to a T, finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds as the Mountaineers notched their first Big East Conference road victory of the season.
Butler scored his points in a variety of ways, using his quickness at times to get around bullish Bulls' center Kentrell Gransberry, and other times relying on his silky-smooth mid-range jump shot.
Butler's 12 rebounds were a game high.
Head coach Bob Huggins is some 30 years past his playing days, but for the first time in memory at least caused a coach's name to be thrown into the BGN Player of the Game debate. Huggins not only had to come up with a plan sans his leading scorer and rebounder, but also had to make several adjustments throughout the game. The first was on the defensive end of the court in the opening half, with the Mountaineers creeping towards foul trouble and the Bulls finding several ways to score. Huggins pushed the right buttons defensively throughout the game, allowing his team to pull away with the double-digit victory.
When Gransberry began to establish himself in the paint, the Mountaineers opted to make him earn it the hard way for the rest of the game by sending the Big East's leading rebounder to the foul line. The Baton Rouge, La. native responded with a painstaking two of 12 performance from the charity stripe.
Speaking of the foul line, West Virginia aggressively attacked the hoop, and was rewarded handsomely with 26 foul shots. The Mountaineers held up their end of the bargain, making 22 of the 26 attempts, good enough for a clip of nearly 85 percent.
Another Huggins adjustment was trotting out a lineup that featured both Mountaineer ballhandlers, Joe Mazzulla and Darris Nichols. It certainly wasn't the first time both players had been on the court at the same time, but on Sunday, the duo combined to play 54 minutes. How did they respond? A combined state line of 26 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
With West Virginia struggling mightily on the offensive end in the first half, Nichols began to attack the hoop. In the second half, it was Mazzulla's aggressive play on offense which sparked the Mountaineers to a decisive advantage. Both players also spent a ton of time on the court diving after loose balls and taking charges.