NEW YORK- Same play. Same person. Same result.
That's all it took for senior Da'Sean Butler to make his second game-winner in three days at the Big East Championship, beating Georgetown with a driving layup with 4.2 seconds remaining to give West Virginia its first-ever Big East title by the final score of 60-58. The win was the 27th of the year for the Mountaineers, who can make a strong case for a one-seed with their nine RPI Top 50 and nation-best eighteen RPI Top-100 wins. But it wasn't about that for this group, who merely wanted to make history in winning a championship for the State of West Virginia.
"We [kind of] wanted to win this for our state first, because the people there love us so much and they support us so much," said Butler when asked what a title at MSG would mean for a team with a starting lineup hailing entirely from New York and New Jersey. ""We have a lof of people depending on us to do a lot, especially in our state. That was our main concern, not letting the state down."
Butler led three Mountaineers in double figures with 20 points while Wellington Smith added 11 points and 10 rebounds and Kevin Jones 12 points. Chris Wright, who led the Hoyas with 20 points and seven assists, drove the length of the court following Butler's shot but when his layup attempt at the buzzer fell short WVU moved to 23-0 this season in games in which they held their opponents to 69 points or less. Georgetown, who has won a league-best seven Big East Tournament titles, failed to become the first eight-seed in Tournament history to win the title. Austin Freeman finished with 14 points, knocking down a three-pointer with 51 seconds remaining to tie the game at 56.
But two things made the difference in addition to Butler's shot: rebounding and the defending of Greg Monroe. West Virginia finished the game with a 38-24 advantage on the glass and outscored Georgetown 21-10 in second-chance points. Of the Mountaineers' 38 rebounds 20 were of the offensive variety; a team loaded with guys in the 6-7 to 6-9 range, Bob Huggins' club does an outstanding job of at the least tipping those opportunities and keeping them alive for a teammate to grab. As for Monroe, he scored eleven points while attempting just seven shots (making three). Smith was a large part of that before fouling out with 1:37 remaining.
"I was trying not to let him catch the ball; try to deny him as much as I [could]," said Smith. "He's the engine that runs their team, so it's important for us to not let him touch the ball." In addition to Smith, Joe Mazzulla did his usual "whatever the team needs" work, finishing with seven assists and no turnovers in 29 minutes of action. And that's despite Coach Huggins not thinking that the point guard had played his best game.
"Honestly I don't think Joe would mind me telling you this, I didn't think Joe was giving us what we needed Joe to give us," said Huggins. "Joe brings such great enthusiasm, he brings such great toughness; he competes so hard. Everybody loves Joe because of what Joe is, and Joe doesn't need to be anything else than what Joe is."
There really isn't a whole lot to analyze about this one; simply another classic in the annals of the Big East Tournament and Madison Square Garden. Up next for both: Selection Sunday, when they find out their first destination and opponent for the six-game (if all goes well) journey to a national championship. And West Virginia closed a mighty solid case that they should be at the top of their region when it all begins.
David R. Gavitt Most Outstanding Player Award
F Da'Sean Butler (West Virginia)
F Kevin Jones (West Virginia)
C Greg Monroe (Georgetown)
G Chris Wright (Georgetown)
G Tory Jackson (Notre Dame)
F Lazar Hayward (Marquette)