ANAHEIM, Calif. – Players of the Game in West Virginia's 84-66 win over Portland here in the 76 Classic title game.
Da'Sean Butler gets lead honors for his all-around play. The senior drilled consecutive three-pointers with about six minutes left in the first half to start a closing stretch in which WVU scored 18 of the final 26 points to turn a three-point game into a 39-25 edge at the break. Butler finished with 26 points on 10 of 16 shooting, including four of seven from long range. He also used a series of spins and drop-steps inside, and hit a couple jumpers. Butler's full array was on display in the final, and though it was early, his high point of impressiveness was a dunk off a head fake and drive. Butler had the play setup by making the two early threes, and as the defense kept extending, he made them pay. Butler answered each of the first three times Portland scored consecutive baskets in the second half. The last time, with WVU ahead 61-45 with seven minutes left, he made a three to give him his 22nd point of the game to move past Lester Rowe for 14th place on the all-time school scoring list.
Kevin Jones. The forward just keeps making plays. He finished with 17 points before fouling out, and his first seven were among the most important of the contest. With Portland's zone defense bothering West Virginia and allowing the Pilots to take a 12-8 lead, Jones made a tip-in, then connected on a putback and a three-pointer within a two-minute span. Three possessions later he added another three that gave WVU the lead for good at 18-14. Jones tallied six rebounds and was all over the floor on offense and defense. His exceptional shooting range and touch combined with his length made him a difficult match-up for the Pilots, and once they began to concentrate on Jones, Ebanks and Flowers got some inside looks.
Truck Bryant. The point guard didn't shoot it well (two of nine) but played 31 minutes and scored nine points with four rebounds and three assists against a single turnover. He handled Portland's pressure well, and was key in some fast breaks and transition points. He also made five of seven shots from the line and did not get into foul trouble – which will be important down the stretch as Joe Mazzulla continues to battle a shoulder issue. Mazzulla played just nine minutes in this contest, and could be hindered more on offense than ever before. Wirth his reduced time and a lack of output by Casey Mitchell and Jonnie West, Truick's timely performance and handling greatly aided the Mountaineers in their title conquest.
West Virginia's composure and patience. The Mountaineers were close to getting frustrated several times in the first 10 minutes, when they were still figuring out Portland's zone and what line-up to best counteract what the Pilots were doing. But no player failed to remain under control. And when the threes started falling and the lead increased to double digits, WVU could have been tempted to keep firing them. But it still worked through the offense and found the best possible shot option. That kept pressure on Portland, and the Pilots wilted a bit with a shorter bench and having to cope with physicality on both ends of the floor.