A late rally blossoms into a win in the Magnolia State as West Virginia slips past Mississippi 80-78 in the Mountaineers' first road game of the year.
In what's becoming commonplace, Da'Sean Butler's overall play earns Player of the Game honors in WVU's solid non-conference road win Wednesday at Ole Miss. The junior scored a team-high 22 points and was the Mountaineers' lone inside threat. His moves on the block and ability to play the ball off the rim kept chances alive and gave West Virginia a clear inside edge. Butler was just four of nine from the line – though that's beginning to resemble good for a team that failed to convert even half their tries in the last three games and almost cost it a second straight game.
John Flowers garners net burner status for his clutch play, including a huge three-pointer inside two minutes that helped West Virginia rally after seeing a three-point lead erased. Flowers made five of seven shots, scoring 13 points, and finally broke through at the line to make consecutive free throws after missing his first 16 of the season. He did finish with four straight misses, but his intangible play was significant, and helped keep West Virginia from losing confidence.
Alex Ruoff gets a mention for his hot shooting early and a huge three-pointer down the stretch. No other player was scoring outside save Flowers or, on occasion, Wellington Smith. The senior hit two big free throws toward the end of the game, and forced Ole Miss to focus more on the perimeter. The Mountaineers seemed to flounder without Ruoff on the floor, earning him a nod despite foul trouble another below-average shooting outing; he finished with 16 points, but made just four of 11 threes despite getting open looks. His finest might have come off a nice two-man game in the corner when he faked a three, passed to Truck Bryant, who drove, then kicked back to Ruoff for the open look.
Bryant gets the final honor for his calm point play. Starter Joe Mazulla played effectively, often drawing fouls and fighting through a shoulder injury when he jammed it on a drive. But the team seems more settled with Bryant at point because he slows the action some. He shot well save for a free throw miss when Mazzulla was too hurt to take shots he was awarded after yet another call drawn via a drive. It wasn't a brilliant performance from the freshman, but he gets a solid ‘B.' Not bad for his first collegiate road game.
Up next: The lone home contest in a seven-game stretch as WVU plays host to Cleveland State on Saturday at 1 p.m.