Study, Hall

On a day when the Mountaineer Maniacs paid tribute to Billy Hahn, the West Virginia assistant made Seton Hall do likewise.

Hahn, who game-planned for the Hall, gave SHU a case study in basketball fundamentals in an 89-68 win Sunday. WVU ripped its Big East brethren with red-hot shooting and ice-cold consistency on both ends of the floor. It brought even a smile to the face of Hahn, honored for his trademark all-back getup highlighted by a turtleneck – a look that was mimicked by many in the student section.

For West Virginia, it was a much-needed second consecutive win. Alex Ruoff and Da'Sean Butler each scored 15 points, part of four players in double figures – Joe Alexander had 13 and Darris Nichols added 11 – as the Mountaineers rolled against the Big East's worst scoring defense. It was the third consecutive series game in which West Virginia topped 80 against the Pirates. By the end, fellow assistant Erik Martin urged on the student section in the closing minutes, pointing his finger and pumping an arm in time to chants of "Billy Hahn, Billy Hahn."

WVU (18-7, 7-5 Big East) finished with its best shooting game of the season in league play by hitting 53.7 percent from the floor, including 11 threes. That percentage represents the third-best total this year and the best shooting in the last 17 games.

"It's taking advantage of opportunities and making shots," Alexander said. "We didn't do anything special. I stayed in the offense and it worked out. They add up and it's great to get other guys building confidence."

Including that of Ruoff and Nichols, who combined to make six threes. The shots triggered the two key runs that allowed West Virginia to open up its lead. The first, a 10-0 push in the middle of the first half, led to a 24-9 edge. WVU chased that with a 10-2 run to start the second period. Nichols and Ruoff canned 3-pointers before Butler and Ruoff scored inside, the latter via a goaltending call. The 55-32 spread with 17 minutes left was the largest to that point, and effectively pushed Seton Hall out of any offensive comfort zone. The Hall didn't abandon its inside game, but that was continually shut down with tipped passes, turnovers, steals and a control of the boards that WVU hasn't had over any other major conference foe this season. The Pirates, the worst Big East rebounding team, appeared totally outmanned to the point of being slower in both reaction time and quickness.

"It was a great team effort," West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. "Everybody we put in the game did a good job for us. I think (players) gave us energy. It's intensity and playing hard. We work hard on all that."

The Mountaineers' ball movement and passing befuddled Seton Hall, which appeared flustered and uncomfortable against the motion sets. SHU did chase the early run with an 8-0 spurt of its own to get back within 29-19 with less than six minutes to play. But WVU immediately answered with Alexander's tip-in and threes from Ruoff and Ted Talkington, who buried one from the corner shortly after entering. Ruoff then added a putback of his own miss and a transition lay-up for an eventual 45-30 halftime lead.

West Virginia sealed the game with a final surge during which Talkington hit a running lay-in, Butler score on a putback and Nichols and Jarrett Brown – who had just entered – make threes. Talkington also banked in a trey from the far right side of the arc after the whistle, a sign that nearly everything was going the Mountaineers' way. Brown's three put Seton Hall down 72-44 midway through the half to essentially end the game; the quarterback followed it with another deep dagger shot one minute later, and Hahn's dissection was complete.

The Pirates (15-11, 5-8) never truly settled on offense and were forced to rely on Jeremy Hazell for the vast majority of their early scoring. The freshman had career-best 20 single half points through the opening period and finished with a career high 30 overall. Brian Laing added 21 points for Seton Hall, 19 in the second half. That came too late, however, as West Virginia, which used only a man defense for the entire game, led by 15 points in tying its biggest margin against Big East foes at the break this year.

The Mountaineers, who played man for the entire game, finished with 12 turnovers forced and had advantages in nearly every statistical category, including rebounds (47-26) and assists against turnovers (12-12 for SHU/24-13 for WVU). The later was somewhat of a surprise, considering the two teams rank first and second in the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio.

"I would think that he likes that, "Alexander said of Huggins' ability to stay in a man defense for 40 minutes. "I think it shows that, individually, we are taking the responsibility to lock our man up. It means, if you can do that for 40 minutes, you are taking responsibility. It takes more discipline to play man, especially when you are up so much. You take pride in that."

After West Virginia established its 55-32 lead, Seton Hall never got closer than 19 points and fell behind by as much as 30 twice with just minutes to play in losing for the fifth straight time. That streak matches its longest losing stretch in six seasons. WVU now goes on the road to play at Villanova on Wednesday at 8 p.m. It is 4-3 in true road contests this year.

"Now, I think we can walk into any place without any fear," Huggins said. "If we took anything out of the Pitt game, they are not worried about the crowd. We went in there to win, and we felt we could."

Note: Nichols played in his 129th game to set a new school record. That represents every game of the senior's college career. "I'm getting old," he said. "I try to condition myself to be able to go. I have been lucky, too. You look at a guy like Cam Thoroughman, who has been here for a year and suffered injuries. A lot of times I have been hurt, but played through pain."

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