PoG: WVU - Ohio State

It may have been hard to pick more than one player worth mentioning at halftime of Saturday afternoon's contest, but several players distinguished themselves in WVU's second half rally that culminated in a 71-65 victory over Ohio State.

PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Da'Sean Butler.

Those loud cheers that erupted when the senior forward launched several second half 3-pointers? It has been awhile since this reporter's ears had heard them.

Butler finally broke out of a lengthy shooting slump in the final 20 minutes, engineering his team's comeback victory by hitting a trio of shots from behind the arc and scoring 16 of his 21 points over the same span of time.

But beyond just the scoring, Butler helped create cracks in Ohio State's 1-3-1 zone, which had been employed against the Mountaineers to great effect in the first half.

That made life easier for several of his teammates, and made a comeback that seemed unlikely (if not impossible) at halftime a reality.

NET BURNERS:

  • Truck Bryant.

    It was tough picking between the point guard and Butler for our top honors (as there was even a rare bit of disagreement amongst our staff), but Bryant's headshot above shouldn't diminish the performance of West Virginia's sophomore floor general.

    For once, Bryant actually looked like that he was worthy of that title, breaking down Buckeye defenders off the dribble on multiple occasions and absorbing contact in the lane while still managing to score.

    Simultaneously, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native played both more aggressively and under greater control in the second half Saturday-- a combination that is the goal of every point guard, but a difficult one to attain.



    Truck Bryant

    He pushed the tempo at the right times and managed to back off the gas pedal and get his team into a half-court set at the proper moments as well.

    After being criticized on multiple occasions for making the wrong decisions in fast break situations, he made the right one at a key moment against OSU.

    After a Devin Ebanks steal of Evan Turner, the forward found Bryant ahead of the pack. The guard kept the rock for just long enough to draw a defender before dishing to an open Butler for a slam dunk that brought the visitors' advantage down to six points early in the second half.

    Head coach Bob Huggins said afterwards that his point guard is simply getting better. That was questionable at times earlier in the season, but there was no doubt that Bryant put together one of the best halves of his career in the final 20 minutes against OSU.

  • Wellington Smith.

    The senior forward was the only Mountaineer who had anything approaching a solid first half.

    The native of Summit, N.J., scored 11 points in the first 20 minutes of action, hitting on all four of his field goal attempts (three of which came from 3-point range).

    Smith had a similar outburst earlier in the season against a ranked Ole Miss foe at the Coliseum. Whatever it is the forward did to prepare himself for games against ranked non-conference foes at home, it worked this year.

    While he largely disappeared down the stretch, the fact that he almost single-handedly kept his team close enough to even think about a second half comeback earned him the nod here.

  • Joe Mazzulla.

    With essentially one functional arm, Mazzulla continues to play twice the defense of the average healthy player.

    The junior guard did everything possible to limit long-range sharpshooters like Jon Diebler. In the second half, that work paid off, as Diebler had only two of his 11 points after the intermission.

    Mazzulla scored four points on nice drives to the goal -- once, in the first half simply noticing that the OSU defense was out of position; the second, in the final period, off a nice curl-cut to the goal.

    He also delivered a near-perfect bounce pass to a surprisingly open Kevin Jones at one point in the second half, earning the forward an easy lay-in of his own.

    While Mazzulla missed a pair of late free throws, showing just how awkward his shot has become since his shoulder injury and subsequent surgery last year, it's clear he is doing everything in his power to contribute in his time on the floor.

    The junior is doing all of the little things West Virginia will need if it hopes to have success come March.


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