No. 10 Mountaineers stun No. 9 ‘Cats
Some situations conjure up great images. Even if they don’t happen.
West Virginia had just played its worst half of the season against Villanova on Saturday. Those who know the coaching techniques of Bob Huggins would expect him to put on a tremendous display in the locker room as he tries to right his team in the last game of the regular season.
There was no chair throwing, no wild tirade discussing the horrible offensive effort of the first half. There wasn’t even a raised voice.
"He didn’t go nuts. I was surprised,” Da’Sean Butler said of his coach, who did get a technical foul in the second half. "I said to myself, ‘I don’t know how he expects us to come back with him sitting there and talking regularly.”’
There might be a new halftime attitude in Morgantown as the 10th-ranked Mountaineers rallied from that ugly first half to beat No. 9 Villanova 68-66 in overtime.
"I told the guys at halftime ‘I don’t know if we can play any worse,”’ Huggins said.
The turnaround was quick.
Trailing 29-16 at halftime after a poor shooting trifecta of 24 percent from the field (6 of 25), 16.7 percent on 3s (2 of 12) and 20 percent from the free throw line (2 of 10), the Mountaineers opened the second half with an 18-5 run to tie the game. They managed to score as many points as they did in the first half by 6:23 into the second.
"We’ve done it all year but I don’t think I can take any more of these kind,” Huggins said. "If there’s such a thing as making people overconfident we’re the masters at it, but our guys compete.”
Butler scored 21 points, including the decisive basket with 5.8 seconds left in overtime, grabbed 10 rebounds and finished 13 of 14 from the foul line for the Mountaineers (24-6, 13-5), who will be the No. 3 seed in next week’s Big East tournament.
Villanova, which has lost four of its last six games, would be the No. 2 seed if Rutgers beats Pittsburgh later Saturday, and the Wildcats would be No. 4 if the Panthers win.
Butler’s winning drive came after the Mountaineers had taken possession with 26 seconds left when Villanova was forced into a 35-second shot clock violation.
"I looked right at (Jonnie West) and saw him open a little in the corner but Scottie (Reynolds) jumped right in the passing lane so that was my first step,” Butler said. "Then I looked at Kevin Jones and he was open but the guy on me dropped right back off. So I was in air, pulled up, put in on the glass and I prayed. The angle it hit the backboard I knew it was in.”
Reynolds, who led the Wildcats (14-6, 13-5) with 17 points, had an open 3-point attempt from the corner but it bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
"Butler made a hell of a running bank shot,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "Reggie Redding found Scottie at the end, he just didn’t make it. It’s the Big East. Now we just have to get ready for Thursday.”
Villanova forced overtime when Corey Fisher made his only 3-point attempt of the game with 7.7 seconds to play to make it 60-60. Huggins was signaling wildly for a timeout but none of the officials saw it – it was pretty loud in the Wachovia Center – and the Mountaineers settled on a long 3-point attempt by Devin Ebanks that missed everything.
Wellington Smith had 15 points — 13 after halftime — for West Virginia, which has won five of six. Ebanks had 12.
Fisher had 12 points for the Wildcats, who missed their season low for points by one despite playing an extra 5 minutes and were held 18 points below their season average that leads the Big East.
West Virginia, the Big East’s top defensive team allowing 64.8 points on average, did an exceptional job on Reynolds, the Wildcats’ leading scorer at 18.9 points per game. The 6-foot-2 senior finished 5 of 16 from the field, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range, struggling throughout against West Virginia’s taller guards who all had a chance to cover him.
"They just had a hand in my face and they’re very long,” Reynolds said. "It was two great teams battling each other. They just made another play better than we did.”