NEW YORK -- Devin Ebanks turned in his third straight standout performance in Madison Square Garden to sweep BlueGoldNews.com's Player of the Game honors at the 2009 Big East Championships.
Devin Ebanks's late-season coming out party continued on Friday night. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for West Virginia to overcome Syracuse as the Mountaineers fell 74-69 to the Orange here in the Big East semi-finals at Madison Square Garden.
Ebanks scored a career-high 22 points to lead West Virginia, establishing a new career-high in the process. He had set his previous career mark of 20 points in Thursday night's 74-60 thrashing of Pitt. While he was held without a rebound in the first half (two days after grabbing 18 boards in the win over Notre Dame), the Long Island City, N.Y., native finished with six boards for the game, as well as three steals.
His most impressive moment undoubtedly came at the end of regulation when, with the Mountaineers trailing by two, Ebanks drew a foul and stepped to the line with the potential to tie the game and send it into overtime. The freshman took several deep breaths, composed himself and sank the first with the Garden crowd on its feet. SU head coach Jim Boeheim tried to ice Ebanks by calling a timeout after the first shot, but the all-Big East Rookie Team member was unfazed as he swished the second shot through the hoop.
While the final score was decided in overtime, WVU might have lost this game at the start when the Mountaineers inexcusably came out flat to start the game. Even with a chance to advance to the Big East finals for just the second time in school history, West Virginia's players came out of the gate with an alarming lack of enthusiasm.
The Mountaineers struggled mightily on the glass in the first half, which allowed Syracuse to get a number of easy shots and second-chance points. The Orange outrebounded WVU 18-12 in the opening 20 minutes, including seven boards leading to 14 second-chance points.
For the game, the Orange held a 38-33 edge on the glass and grabbed 21 offensive rebounds. They finished with 21 second-chance points on the night.
WVU head coach Bob Huggins said after the game that he did not mind freshman point guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant taking a guarded three with 10 seconds remaining in overtime. Had the shot gone in, the game would have been tied. Instead, the ball was deflected by SU's Eric Devendorf and grabbed out of mid-air by Arinze Onuaku. The nail in the proverbial coffin came when Onuaku found Devendorf, who had leaked out after the break, wide open down the court. The junior guard easily layed the ball in, effectively ending any chance West Virginia had at winning the game.