Lone Senior

It's rare that a team going to the NCAA tournament, and one that has had the success West Virginia has had this year, loses just one senior. That's the case for WVU this year, however, with the versatile Alex Ruoff.

Ruoff will take his final run down the carpet Saturday night when the Mountaineers host No. 6 Louisville for the teams' second matchup of the year. When the Mountaineers traveled to Louisville, they fell behind by 20 points in the opening half before rallying to make a game of it. West Virginia was not quite able to pull it out and lost 69-63.

But this time there are many factors working in West Virginia's favor. It's senior night, ESPNs Game Day is in town, and we all know there's something special about Morgantown at night. Ruoff is looking forward to facing the Cardinals in his final game at the Coliseum.

"We need to control the tempo," he said of the matchup with the Cardinals, "which also mean not turning the ball over. If we can handle the pressure like we did in the second half I think we will be okay. We got 22 offensive rebounds against DePaul and I think if we can get that against them it will be a guaranteed win."

Dominating the boards in that manner will be a tall task against Louisville's long, athletic lineup, but the Mountaineers have shown that they have the ability to take care of the ball against the Cardinals' relentless pressure. The big question is, which team will show up? The one that crumbled in the opening 20 minutes, or the one that rallied late? For Ruoff, the key will be to keep the emotions of the game out of his head and focus simply on basketball. His team will need a steadying influence against Louisville, which will be playing for the regular season league title.

"I haven't thought much about (it being his final home game,)" admitted Ruoff. "I'm going to try not to because I'm pretty emotional. The last thing we need is for me to start crying before the game so I'm not going to think about it."

The Spring Hill, Fla. native will have a much larger cheering section than usual on Saturday. His family has come to see Ruoff in his final regular season game, and he's also happy to see the students so enthusiastic about the late night game. Students have camped out since Thursday evening for the 9:00 PM tipoff.

"It's so awesome," said Ruoff. "We actually had like 20 of them camping out (Thursday) night. I went and got them some pizza and took them some sodas and they were really happy. That's dedication. That's awesome."

Ruoff will likely take the lead for all time three-point field goals from former guard Kevin Pittsnogle on Saturday. The two are currently tied with 253 apiece.

During his career at WVU, Ruoff has put himself firmly among the top performers in Mountaineer history. As a sophomore, he earned a starting position and during that year he averaged 10.3 points per game. He had 191 assists, the third most in school history. Last season Ruoff averaged 13.8 points per game. His 98 three-pointers ranked him second in the Big East. As a senior, Ruoff has second on the team in scoring with 16.3 points per game. He's seen an average of 36 minutes per game.

All those numbers, however, aren't in his thoughts right now. While he admits that it will be nice to look back at his career once it's over, and that the records will mean something then, he's concentrating on the handful of games remaining in his career. Those contests, and helping West Virginia advance as far as it can in the Big East and NCAA tournaments, are his focus now.


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