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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Butler Does It Again as West Virginia Wins Big East Tourney

By John Antonik for

NEW YORK – The Butler did it one more time! Da’Sean Butler’s running jumper with four seconds left lifted sixth-ranked West Virginia to a 60-58 victory over Georgetown to capture the 2010 Big East basketball championship at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Big East Tournament MVP Da'Sean Butler kisses the championship trophy after leading West Virginia to a 60-58 victory over Georgetown Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Butler, who scored 20 points on 7 of 19 shooting, was named tournament most valuable player immediately after the game. This was West Virginia’s first conference tournament victory since claiming the Atlantic 10 championship on its home floor in 1984.

"We ran the same play that we set up for the Cincinnati game," Butler explained. "I waited for Casey (Mitchell) to come off. They kind of overplayed one side and went the other way.

"I came to the top of the key and I had to come get the ball and they kind of switched. I think Monroe was on me and I think he had a feeling I was going to shoot a 3. I had a little hesitation, went around him, Freeman stepped up, and had a little hop step and scooped a layup off the glass."

It seemed the Mountaineers were almost destined to win their first Big East title with an all-New York City starting lineup of Butler, Wellington Smith, Kevin Jones, Devin Ebanks and Truck Bryant. Including reserve forward Danny Jennings, West Virginia has six players on its roster from the New York City metropolitan area.

Smith, another New Yorker, played a fantastic first half, scoring 9 of his tournament-best 11 points while grabbing a team-best 10 rebounds.

As it has done all year, West Virginia (27-6) won this game with great defense, tough rebounding and the clutch playmaking of Butler, who joined Mr. Clutch himself, Jerry West, and Hot Rod Hundley in the school’s prestigious 2,000-point club.

Butler’s 2,000th point came late in the first half when his three-point play put the Mountaineers up 24-20.

Georgetown had two four-minute stretches in both halves without scoring baskets, and finished the game shooting just 42.6 percent after carving up top-seeded Syracuse and Marquette earlier in the tournament.

But West Virginia could never quite shake the determined Hoyas, the Mountaineers building leads of six in the first half and then later nine with 12:22 remaining on a Casey Mitchell 3-point basket.

That’s when Georgetown went to work, getting a 3 from Hollis Thompson and then back-to-back baskets by Austin Freeman and Chris Wright to cut the Mountaineers’ lead to two, 43-41, with 10:38 left.

Butler stopped the run with a 3, and added a jumper at 9:02 to take the lead back to seven, 48-41.

But as it did two nights before against Cincinnati and again last night against Notre Dame, West Virginia had to hold on for dear life. Two Greg Monroe free throws with 3:27 left cut Georgetown’s deficit to one, 52-51, and the Hoyas eventually tied it at 56 when Freeman nailed a 3 with 54 seconds left.

Mitchell unknotted the score with a pair of free throws, and Mazzulla added two more from the line with 27 seconds left to give West Virginia a 58-56 advantage.

Chris Wright answered with a basket for Georgetown with 17 seconds left to set the scene for Butler’s game-winning heroics.

"I wish we would make some shots, you know," said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. "I think it would be a little easier. But we talk about it all of the time - we are what we are. We're just going to keep competing. If the day comes and we're going to lose in the next few weeks, we're going to go down swinging."

Butler has now made the deciding basket in six games this season, keying victories over Cleveland State, Marquette, Louisville, Villanova, Cincinnati and now Georgetown.

"It feels good - our familes and our friends are here," said Butler of winning the tournament near his hometown of nearby Newark, N.J. "But we kind of wanted to win for our state first, because the people there love us so much and they support us so much. And I definitely know it means the world to them."

Jones added 12 points and four rebounds for West Virginia, which now has to be considered for one of the four No. 1 seeds awarded to the top teams in the NCAA Tournament. West Virginia has won six straight and eight of its last nine heading into postseason play.

Huggins made his case for a No. 1 seed after the game.

"We have 18 Top 100 wins. We have nine Top 50 wins. The 18 is the most of any team in the country," Huggins said. "Our non-league RPI was second. Our strength of schedule is going to be one. We're going to end up in the top two or three in the RPI. They say, 'Do those things' and we've done those things.

"That being said, we're going to enjoy this. We're going to get together tomorrow and watch the selection show, find out where we're going to go and who we're going to play."

Wright finished with 20 points for Georgetown, now 23-10. Georgetown coach John Thompson, III was asked after the game if he thought playing four games in four days played a factor in tonight's outcome.

"You have to give credit to them and their ability to contest shots," said Thompson, III. "We got some looks we normally make that didn't go in - long guys running at you. But I don't think it was a question of fatigue."

After the game, West Virginia fans were treated to Country Roads on the Madison Square Garden public address system, a tradition at WVU home games following victories.

Huggins, a WVU graduate who returned to his alma mater wanting to win championships and hang banners for his alma mater, could be seen fighting back tears as he embraced his players on the floor after the game.

The school’s first men’s basketball title was also fitting for retiring Director of Athletics Ed Pastilong, who played an instrumental role in getting the Mountaineers into the conference as a full-fledged member 15 years ago.

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Man, that chick beside me is smokin'.

Imagine waking up and seeing this on ESPN. I look like I'm having a stroke back there. Good Lord.

Imagine waking up and seeing this on ESPN. I look like I'm having a stroke back there. Good Lord.

3:30 AM, after the Louisville game.

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