On Wednesday afternoon before he and his teammates left for Georgetown, WVU forward Da'Sean Butler admitted that he was "secretly" seeking revenge for last season's heartbreaking last-second loss to the Hoyas. Thursday night, he got that, and then some.
Butler scored 27 points, grabbed eight rebounds and nailed four 3s to lead West Virginia (14-4, 3-2) to an impressive 75-58 win over the Hoyas here at the Verizon Center.
"It felt good," Butler beamed afterward. "It was exciting. I felt like everything I was putting up was going in."
Almost. West Virginia took the lead for good with 10 minutes to go in the first half, and never looked back en route to its biggest win of the season. Georgetown, on the heels of a loss to Duke last Saturday, could not tie or take the lead for the rest of the game, trimming the deficit as low as two points midway through the second half, but never getting over the hump.
The big night for WVU started on defense, as is almost always the case when Bob Huggins's squad takes the court. The Hoyas made just nine of their 27 second-half shot attempts and shot an ice-cold two-of-16 from three-point land. The Mountaineers outmuscled them in the paint and on the glass as evidenced by their 39-31 rebounding advantage, which included 16 second-chance points from 14 offensive rebounds.
WVU did an admirable job of keeping standout Hoya freshman center Greg Monroe in check, save for a handful of plays. Monroe scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but made just four of his 10 shot. He also finished with four turnovers in 36 minutes of play.
"All we did was try to limit his touches," Huggins explained. "They run so many things through him and he's got such a great understanding of what John (Thompson III) wants him to do, so we just tried to limit his touches."
"I don't think it was anything that I haven't seen before," Monroe said. "(They're) just trying to front me real hard. They just tried to make my teammates have bad angles to pass the ball."
On the other end of the court, West Virginia road the coattails of Butler, currently one of the hottest offensive players in the Big East. Other Mountaineers contributed as well. Though he didn't have his best shooting night, senior guard Alex Ruoff played one of his better all-around games of the season. Ruoff had 10 points, nine assists and just one turnover. With his long-range shots not falling, Ruoff did a good job of taking what was given to him by the Hoyas, which resulted in several of West Virginia's over players knocking down open shots.
"I might have shot a couple of more in the past, but this year I was really trying to get to the basket," Ruoff said. "I think I did well, especially in the second half, of trying to get people the ball. I was trying to penetrate and make a second guy guard me, and I think I did a good job of that."
He punctuated his night with a driving one-handed slam over the outstretched arms of Georgetown reserve Jason Clark.
Meanwhile, Georgetown seemed to be in a funk for much of the night. The Hoyas built a lead as large as seven points in the first five and a half minutes of the game, but soon thereafter began to miss from all over the floor.
"We got some shots that we normally make, layups as well as jump shots," said Thompson. "We got shots that normally go in the basket and didn't. I think we got frustrated after that instead of just fighting through."
The lack of confidence carried over on defense for the Hoyas, who allowed West Virginia to make a blistering 18-of-31 from the floor in the second half.
"I think it's how we responded to not making shots," Thompson said. "Our poor defensive effort was a function of us getting frustrated about the ball not going in."
WVU's effort wasn't limited to just Butler and Ruoff. Freshman point guard Truck Bryant battled foul trouble, but still finished with 13 points and five rebounds. During the first half in particular, Bryant did a good job of taking some of the scoring heat off of Butler.
Freshman forward Devin Ebanks finished with nine points and seven rebounds, while John Flowers grabbed eight boards off the bench in his hometown.
Add up the complete effort, and it equals the biggest win of the season for the Mountaineers.
"They're a good team," Butler said of the Hoyas. "They are a really good team. They're ranked, and at the top of the best conference in college basketball. They've beaten us, I think, every time since I've been here. It just feels good to get this win against a great team and a great coach, on the road especially."
Of course there won't be much time to celebrate this win as WVU hosts No. 4 Pitt on Sunday at the Coliseum.
"We have one big win, but now we have to get another big win," concluded Bryant. "Every night, this is how it's going to be in the Big East."