Players of the Game in No. 6 West Virginia's 63-62 win over Marquette on Tuesday night.
Top honors go to Da'Sean Butler, who finished with 17 points on eight of 13 shooting, his biggest shot the last. The senior grabbed a rebound off Marquette's third miss in its four final free throws and brought the ball past midcourt before spinning and hitting a step-back shot for the win. Butler was originally slated to get the ball on a screen outside if the Eagles made the foul shots, but instead found himself more easily with possession.
"He's the only one who can shoot it like that," West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. "Everybody else has to wait until we reverse the ball because they need to step into it. He doesn't. We never wanted the ball in anybody else's hands."
Butler's game-winner fell through with 2.8 seconds left. Originally ruled a three-pointer, Butler's left foot was on the line. Still, the two points were good enough for the win when Joe Mazzulla intercepted a long Marquette inbounds pass. The victory is the 11th in a row to start a Mountaineer season for the first time in 52 years and sets up a huge New Year's Day showdown with No. 4 Purdue.
Joe Mazzulla. The point guard made hustle plays, diving on the floor, getting into lanes and stripping opposing players. Mazzulla hit a key driving bucket inside three minutes to pull West Virginia within two when it had scored just one other basket in more than five minutes. And he rotated the ball well, at one point finding Casey Mitchell open in the corner for a major three. Mazzulla finished with two points, two rebounds and two assists. But his contributions are always bigger than the box score indicates, and he will be needed against the Boilermakers on Friday.
Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones. The duo get a mention together because while neither was outstanding, their combined play gave the Mountaineers a huge advantage in points in the paint and rebounding. And both players made important hoops in the final minute that will be overshadowed by Butler's, but without which West Virginia would have had a much more difficult time winning. Ebanks scored 17 points and Jones had 20 with both combining to make 16 of 22 shots from the field. No two players made larger interior contributions, and their play inside a minute was a main reason the Mountaineers are still unbeaten.
Team resiliency. This is being balanced a bit more than one would like with team inability to execute at times or follow solid coaching or game strategy. But West Virginia has proven it remains calm in tense late-game situations and can come back against teams when behind or losing momentum at key times. The win over Seton hall flashed the nerves needed for a late season run and the Marquette win was a display of playmaking it its finest in terms of timing and ourtcome. WVU is certainly not completing games and playing intelligently and well for a full 40 minutes, a concern harped upon by Huggins. But it does have the bounce back desired, even if using it too much. That could be a significant factor against Purdue and into the Big East slate.