Still the Go-To Guy

Forward Da'Sean Butler has been going through a bit of shooting and scoring slump lately, scoring 13, 12 and 13 points in his last three games while hitting 15 of 46 shots. But he remains the man WVU turns to when it needs to score.

Four times in the last nine games, Butler has been asked to take a last-second shot, beating Cleveland State and Marquette and missing shots against Notre Dame and Syracuse. The Syracuse attempt was something of happenstance, as he grabbed a rebound with just two seconds left and had no choice but to hurl the ball from three-quarter court, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he's clearly the Mountaineers' go-to guy.

A New Jersey native, Butler got away from Rutgers and Seton Hall when he left high school four years ago. Those schools have taken some criticism over that as he has progressed into one of the Big East's top players.

"I don't think he's overlooked in the Big East," said Rutgers coach Fred Hill. "He's one of the best players in the league and has worked extremely hard to do that. When you can do the things he's done in our league, when you lead your team and it's a Top 10 team, it's only great players, guys who really get the game that can do that."

Butler not only does it scoring, rebounding and passing for WVU, he is acknowledged as the team's spiritual leader.

"There's so much more to Da'Sean than the numbers he puts up," Hill said.

"He makes the players around him better and he has a knack for making a big play. Against Marquette, coming down to the end, Bob Huggins had no set play. Maybe that's the genius. He put the ball in the hands of a great player and he made a great play."


  • West Virginia had won 27 straight games when it scored 70 or more points until Syracuse toppled the Mountaineers, 72-71.

  • When West Virginia and Syracuse met it marked the first time that two Top 10 teams had played in Morgantown in 50 years to the day. The last time, Jerry West led the No. 3 Mountaineers past Villanova in the old fieldhouse.


    F Devin Ebanks was thought to be a shoo-in to play this year and bolt for the NBA, but the 6-9 forward has been inconsistent and averages only 12.2 points a game. In the past five games entering this week, Ebanks has scored 11, 11, 0, 17 and 8 points, hardly NBA-like figures.

    "You can't keep depending on desperation shots at the end of games. It's nice to say, 'Oh, we came back' and all that, but that doesn't cut it. We can't keep falling behind like that." -- F Da'Sean Butler, after losing to Syracuse by a point at home, 72-71.


    SEASON RECAP: West Virginia has not shot well and not played well early in games. The Mountaineers have three losses -- to Purdue, Notre Dame and Syracuse. Two of the losses are by two and one point.


    Notre Dame 70, West Virginia 68
    West Virginia 69, South Florida 50
    Syracuse 72, West Virginia 71

    GAME PREVIEW vs. Marshall (in Charleston), Wednesday, Jan. 20
    vs. Ohio State, Saturday, Jan. 23
    at DePaul, Tuesday, Jan. 26
    vs. Louisville, Saturday, Jan. 30
    vs. Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Feb. 3


    The Mountaineers take a rare two-game, mid-season break from Big East play as they have their annual in-state rivalry game with Marshall in Charleston, the state capital, then entertain Ohio State in Morgantown. Meeting the Buckeyes is a statement game for Bob Huggins' West Virginia program as it tries to establish itself as a Top 10 program. WVU already has lost to a Big 10 team, Purdue, and does not want to have two out-of-conference losses on its resume heading into March.


    G Dalton Pepper, a true freshman, is getting increased playing time as last year's National Junior College Player of the Year Casey Mitchell struggles in his adjustment to big-time college basketball. In the last two games, Mitchell has played just five minutes, taken three shots and not scored. Pepper, on the other hand, has played 31 minutes, scoring 19 points.

    "You look for guys who are going to do what the game plan is. We play guys for defensive purposes and we play guys who can make shots. Pepper has been solid defensively and he's been making shots," coach Bob Huggins said.

    Foul trouble continues to keep starting F Wellington Smith from getting as much playing time as coach Bob Huggins would like to give him. Smith has played less than 20 minutes in three of the past five games.

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