WVU Rips Portland, Takes 76 Classic Title

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Da'Sean Butler scored 26 points and Kevin Jones added 17 as No. 8 West Virginia beat Portland 84-66 here Sunday to win the 76 Classic championship.

Jones scored 13 of his team's 15 points in a key early stretch to give WVU just enough offense to counter a difficult Portland zone and some poor early shooting. His three-pointer and three-point play put the Mountaineers up 21-18 with 13 minutes played before Butler took over. The senior drilled consecutive threes and hit a long two and driving dunk that pushed the edge to 33-22. The Pilots, ranked second last year in three-point percentage, missed 19 of 24 from outside overall. They never got within single digits over the final 23 minutes in falling to 0-19 all-time against Big East teams and 6-43 against Top 25 foes.

"We hit a few shots when we picked up our defensive intensity," Butler said. "We came together as a team."

Butler and Jones were named to the 76 Classic All-Tournament team, and Butler was named the tournaments Most Outstanding Player. Butler led the team in scoring in two of the three tournament games and averaged more than 18 points in passing Lester Rowe for 14th place on the school's all-time scoring list. Jones' 17 in the final were two off his career high and the sophomore scored in double figures in every game. It was West Virginia's first in-season tournament title since it won the 2001 Hispanic College Fund Classic. It last won a three-game in-season tournament in 1997 at the San Juan Shootout. Portland had four players in double figures, led by Nik Raivio's 15. T.J. Campbell had 12 and was also named All-Tournament.

"This shows we can win and not shoot well," Huggins said. "We stayed in the game because we rebounded the ball and we did a pretty good job of staying in the game because of defense."

It appeared early that Portland might be the team to use defense to hang with West Virginia. The Pilots ran an extended zone and the Mountaineers settled for long looks and never challenged inside until midway through the half. WVU finally refused to be lulled into a slower pace and began to get the ball to the middle of the zone, then pass to the wings or dump it into the blocks for better looks. Huggins also increased perimeter offense by putting Jonnie West on the floor with Jones and Butler, and the combination began paying dividends at the six-minute mark. Ahead 21-18, WVU used back-to-back Butler threes and a Devin Ebanks inside hoop to open a 29-18 edge with five minutes left in the period. Butler added another long two, then the head fake and dunk that showcased his versatility.

Portland (5-1) couldn't find the range from outside, and it began to turn the ball over on the blocks. West Virginia's length and quickness were overwhelming at times, and the fifth of six first-half Pilot turnovers led to a Truck Bryant transition lay-up with a minute to play. Casey Mitchell added a bucket for the 39-25 halftime margin, and the rout had begun. WVU continued to balloon its lead over the first six minutes of the second half by getting scoring from five different players for a 51-32 lead. Portland got within 10 once only to have Jones and Butler respond by scoring four of the next seven team points to kick the lead to 15.

"If anybody ever asks me I always say Kevin's the best player on our team," Butler said. "He shoots it, rebounds it, he works the hardest."

Huggins agreed.

"Kev's one of those guys who you'd like to have 13 of because there is never an issue," Huggins said. "He is where he is supposed to be and doing what he is supposed to do. I think his game has really improved."

Devin Ebanks added 14 points for West Virginia, which had a 41-29 advantage in rebounding – including 18 offensive for numerous second and third chances. The win was WVU's 210th all-time in tournament play.

"I was a little worried that they were better than even I thought in person," Portland head coach Eric Reveno said. "They are so impressive, and Huggins has won way more games than I have ever been a part of. Their length bothered us, and we didn't shoot it well. A lot of that was them. We tried different defenses and things, but we just never found what worked."


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