Prior to West Virginia's game against Radford on Tuesday night, Alex Ruoff was presented with a basketball recognizing his recent induction into WVU's 1,000-point club. Once the game tipped, Ruoff kept the milestones coming. The senior guard from Spring Hill, Fla. hit a WVU-record nine 3s and scored a career-high 38 points as WVU rolled over Radford in the final home non-conference game of the season.
"I didn't really know (how many points I had) until people told me on the sideline," Ruoff said. "I get in this groove and I stay aggressive. I think I was staying aggressive on offense. I was trying to do more than just shooting. I didn't want to be just a shooter."
Ruoff filled out the stat sheet nicely, finishing with eight rebounds and five steals. Once he got within a possession of scoring 40 points, though, it became clear that crossing that rare barrier was a very reachable goal.
Three times inside the four minute mark, Ruoff ran off of screens to get open from the perimeter in hopes of knocking down his 10th three-pointer of the night and becoming the first Mountaineer since Lowes Moore against Notre Dame in 1978 to score 40. Although he missed all three shots in that span, Ruoff still left to a standing ovation from the 7,064 in attendance with 1:28 remaining in the second half.
"Coach was calling my number," Ruoff said. "I think he was aware. After we huddled up (following the game) and said ‘National Champs', he came up to me and asked ‘How many plays to I have to run for you to make a shot?' I think he was more aware of it than I was."
"He stays after practice and shoots the ball a lot," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins of his lone senior. "His focus is very good. It's a tribute to him that he'll go out there and spend the time doing what you ask him to do."
His nine 3s broke the previous school record of eight held by Chris Leonard, Mike Gansey and Frank Young. His 38 points were the first time a West Virginia player had scored at least that many since Greg Jones did so against Virginia Tech in 1983.
Many of Ruoff's open three-point opportunities were the result of another dominating effort on the offensive glass by WVU. Yet again, the Mountaineers exerted their will on the boards, finishing with 47 rebounds in all, 23 of which came on offense. Leading the way was freshman forward Devin Ebanks, who finished with 10 total rebounds, six offensive. Ebanks was back in the starting lineup after being limited to just 11 minutes in WVU's win over Miami of Ohio with injuries to his ankle and knee.
The rebounding effort didn't only benefit Ruoff, but the whole team. WVU (9-2) finished with 35 second-chance points, which ironically was the margin of victory for the Mountaineers.
"They just got too many opportunities," said Radford head coach and former Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Brad Greenberg after the game. "They had 71 field goal attempts and we had 45. You can't spot a team that many extra shots and expect to win the game. You just can't do it, especially against a good team.
"We talked about (keeping WVU off the offensive glass) a lot before this game, so I'm terribly disappointed we couldn't get into the air and get rebounds," continued Greenberg, whose brother Seth is the head coach at nearby Virginia Tech. "You have to be tougher than that. You have to get in the air. They're good at what they do, but we've got to be better than that. It's that simple."
In addition to the offensive rebounds, WVU did a good job of limiting the Highlanders to one shot on most of their possessions. RU finished with just seven offensive boards. Combine the weak rebounding efforts with 25 turnovers (15 of which came in the first half) and it's easy to see why Radford was unable to keep up with the Mountaineers despite a solid start.
"(The Mountaineers) do a great job of weak side help," Greenberg noted. "Sometimes our guy would look to feed and they aren't doing a good job of seeing and they're just throwing the ball to the weak side and the ball gets knocked out of bounds."
West Virginia's leading scorer, Da'Sean Butler, was limited to just six first-half minutes after picking up a pair of quick fouls. Butler finished with 11 points, but fouled out with 3:28 remaining. In his absence, reserve forward Cam Throughman bullied his way to six points and eight rebounds.
"Cam is the most physical guy on our team," said Huggins. "In fact, the more I think about it, he might be the only physical guy on our team. Cam knows how to play."
WVU suffered a scare late in the game when starting point guard Truck Bryant limped off with an injury to his right ankle. Bryant left the Coliseum walking in a boot, but is expected to be fine for Saturday's game at Ohio State.
West Virginia's players will remain in Morgantown for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and travel to Columbus on Friday in preparation for Saturday's nationally-televised showdown.