Alexander fought through early foul trouble to pace the Mountaineers through stretches of even play until they delivered the knockout punch with a 9-0 run midway through the second half. That push was spurred by a pair of threes from Da'Sean Butler and John Flowers before Alexander hit a jumper off the glass. It was also part of a larger span during which West Virginia scored 23 of 27 points to extend their lead to 67-42 with six minutes remaining. That effectively sealed the game to give Providence its fifth loss in a row and ninth in the last 10 games.
The point pile-on came from nearly every player on the roster. Ahead 44-38, WVU got a basket from Wellington Smith that segued into the 3-pointers from Butler and Flowers and the hoop from Alexander. Ruof then scored inside, and Joe Mazzulla added four consecutive free throws. That pushed the advantage to 61-42 before the Mountaineers finished the domination with six final points. Better yet, it harassed Providence on defense, forcing the Friars away from the basket and not allowing the second shots PC got in the opening half. It all added to a season-high 21 turnovers and a season-low in points for Providence. The 53 points scored were nearly 20 below its average, and further extended West Virginia's Big East-leading scoring margin.
"They score on everybody," WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. "It's not just some teams. Transition defense was really important. We did not give them any easy baskets. We did a heck of a job guarding them and not giving them second shots. And once we got it going offensively, Da'Sean made a three and Alex makes a three, and we go."
Ruoff scored 14 points and Butler tallied 13 for West Virginia (19-8, 8-6 Big East). Smith came off the bench to score 10. Providence (13-14, 4-11) was led by Jeff Xavier's 15 points. Brian McKenzie had 10 for the Friars, who lost for the eighth time in nine road games. PC had dropped seven of its last eight against WVU.
"It's a great example of learning from a loss," Alexander said. "We got more physical tonight. We didn't let them take us out of stuff when they were physical. The coaches talked about that, and we did it. It was like Villanova. The difference is we responded. I think we are gaining confidence. We have some more now."
The game was close early, with a lone run separating the teams at the half. Providence led 16-15 with eight minutes left before Butler hit a three and a driving lay-up as part of a 10-0 run that gave the Mountaineers a 25-16 edge with six minutes left. WVU led 33-27 at the break.
The opening half also featured among the stranger sequences in recent memory. Smith started his scoring by hitting a driving lay-up while falling into a defender. One official signaled the shot was good, with a block call on Providence. Another referee signaled a charge call on Smith to negate the hoop. Duel fouls were eventually called, with Smith being awarded the basket for a 10-8 WVU lead. The Friars then took possession, with the public address announcer noting it was because of the arrow. It was, however, not because of the arrow, but instead because the basket was good with the double foul calls. Providence rightfully took possession as it would have after any other made WVU basket. The Friars were properly given the ball after the next jump ball call because the arrow did not change on the driving lay-up play by Smith.
That didn't help the crowd response, however, especially when several other calls also went against West Virginia. The whistles further riled the 11,319 in attendance already emotionally charged because of the foul calls and what it believed to be an incorrect possession to Providence after the tie-up that forced the held ball. That segued into a pair of Ruoff plays that triggered another crowd explosion with four minutes left in the half. After a WVU turnover, Joe Mazzulla stole the ball and found Ruoff on a four on one for a transition lay-up to go ahead 27-20. Ruoff then defended the inbounds play and managed to gain a Mountaineer possession by throwing the ball off a Providence player as it was going out of bounds.
It was a showcase of the effort that was severely lacking in a loss at Villanova. And it seems to be coming just in time, with a key game looming at DePaul on Wednesday. That is nearly a must-win for the Mountaineers, which will likely need to beat St. John's and either Pitt or Connecticut to secure a shot at an NCAA bid entering the Big East Tournament. That means winning three of the last four, plus likely one in the postseason.
"We need wins," Huggins said. "We need a lot of wins."