POG: WVU-Duke

West Virginia is heading back to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four seasons after knocking off second-seeded Duke in Washington D.C.

In the opening-round win over Arizona, West Virginia prevailed despite not getting a great deal of productivity from it's bench. Against the Blue Devils on Saturday, one Mountaineer reserve more than made up for that lack of combined production two nights earlier.

Sophomore point guard Joe Mazzulla had the game of his life, nearly becoming the first Mountaineer player since Jerome Anderson in 1975 to record a triple-double. Mazzulla finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to give WVU a monumental lift from the bench and propel West Virginia into the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in its past four NCAA appearances.

Not adequately recorded in the final scorebook is the grit and toughness displayed by the Rhode Island native, who repeatedly came down with tough rebounds, dribbled through traffic, and even survived a brutal open-court screen from Duke forward Lance Thomas that momentarily sent him to the court.

True to form, though, Mazzulla got back up off the deck. So, too, did the Mountaineers.


NET BURNERS

  • With frontcourt starters Da'Sean Butler and Wellington Smith battling foul trouble all afternoon, Huggins was forced to go to the bench midway through the second half to insert seldom-used forward Cam Thoroughman. The redshirt freshman from Portsmouth, Ohio has played sparingly throughout the season, but displayed a certain toughness during his limited minutes on the court.

    Once again on Saturday, Thoroughman provided an invaluable contribution to his team, grabbing four rebounds (three on the offensive glass) and even scoring four points while playing a gritty 10 minutes, all in the second half.

  • Junior guard Alex Ruoff had been slumping near the end of the regular season, particularly with his outside shot. Needless to say, the kid picked a good time to find the stroke again.

    After scoring 21 points in the win over Arizona, Ruoff finished with 17 points on six of 12 shooting, including two huge second half three-pointers to help keep momentum dressed in blue and gold. One of Ruoff's bombs had an inflated degree of difficulty as the Spring Hill, Fla. native drained a trey against an expiring shot clock while fading sideways into the Mountaineer bench.

  • Joe Alexander's seven-of-22 performance from the field might not suggest that this was one of his better games, but the junior forward delivered more than just points in helping to knock off the Blue Devils. Alexander finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and three crucial assists, two of which found cutting teammates for backdoor layups.

    Defensively, Alexander stayed out of foul trouble and remained on the floor for the entire 40 minutes, something many Mountaineers had trouble doing thanks to the tight-whistled nature of Saturday's game. Too, Alexander had a pair of emphatic blocked shots against the Blue Devils as West Virginia rejected Duke on the way back to the Sweet 16.


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