West Virginia's first game with UConn back on March 1 left the Mountaineers with two impressions: first, had they shown up for the first 20 plus minutes of the game, they likely could have done much better than the 78-71 result the game ended in. And second? Joe Alexander had his way against the Huskies, pouring in a then-career-best 32 points in the defeat.
From that, the Mountaineers took a lesson on not being intimidated by the name on the front of the opposing jersey, and put the newfound wisdom to good work here on Thursday afternoon, holding off the fourth-seeded Huskies thanks to yet another dominating performance by Alexander.
The junior forward tallied a new career high with 34 points against the talented UConn frontcourt of Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien and Stanley Robinson. Alexander carried the Mountaineers through the first half with 15 points, and continued to have his way in the final 20 minutes, putting an exclamation point on the contest with a ferocious facial throwdown on Robinson that sent the WVU bench and gold-clad cheering section into a frenzied celebration.
Alexander totaled his numbers on 12-22 shooting from the floor and an impressive (not to mention important) 10-12 from the free throw line. Alexander played a team-best 39 minutes, and was remarkably not whistled for a single one of the combined 50 personal fouls in the contest. Alexander was the only player on either team who played but did not commit a foul.
Ruoff wore the new jersey for the rest of Thursday's quarterfinal, but Schmidt vowed afterward in the Mountaineer locker room that No. 22 will be ready for action in time for Friday's 7:00 PM semifinal with Georgetown.
Butler also finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, narrowly missing his second double-double in as many days.