West Virginia got off to a hot start and made just enough plays down the stretch to hold off pesky DePaul by a final of 85-73 in the Windy City.
The Mountaineers got solid efforts throughout the roster, but in our opinion it was the play of sophomore forward Da'Sean Butler which proved to be the difference for the victors.
Butler recorded his second career double-double, finishing with 14 and 13 to lead West Virginia to the win. The Newark, N.J. native was all over the court for WVU, seemingly coming up with big plays when the Mountaineers needed it most.
Six of West Virginia's 12 offensive rebounds belonged to Butler, and arguably none was bigger than his tip-in with 3:20 to go to give the Mountaineers a 14-point advantage, all but sealing the fate of DePaul.
For much of the first half, the game was a tale of two teams moving in opposite directions. On the strength of a 22-0 run over seven minutes, West Virginia seized early control from the Blue Demons. Similarly, the Mountaineers held DePaul without a point for nearly seven minutes later in the half. The Blue Demons would get their act together in the final few minutes, though WVU still held a sizeable 44-29 halftime advantage. Much of DePaul's woes were a result of poor foul shooting as it clanked 12 of 16 first half foul shots.
Junior guard Alex Ruoff had his best offensive game -- at least in terms of scoring -- since the January 13 win over Syracuse. Ruoff finished with 22 points on six-of-10 which included a blistering four-of-seven effort from downtown. Ruoff also made six of his seven free throws down the stretch as DePaul inexplicably opted to keep fouling despite a double-digit deficit with less than 30 seconds to play.
West Virginia's bench trio of Wellington Smith, John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla combined for 22 points on the night. Flowers and Smith both got loose for emphatic slams in the second half, while Mazzulla was his normal, productive self driving to the basket and finishing amongst the trees.