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West Virginia beats Notre Dame to advance in Big East men's basketball tournament

Alex Ruoff, a former Brooksville Central standout, tries to drive around Notre Dame’s Zach Hillesland during his 25-point performance that helped West Virginia reach the quarterfinals against Pittsburgh.

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Alex Ruoff, a former Brooksville Central standout, tries to drive around Notre Dame’s Zach Hillesland during his 25-point performance that helped West Virginia reach the quarterfinals against Pittsburgh.

NEW YORK — Senior guard Alex Ruoff rattles off the close losses West Virginia has taken in the Big East this season and sees a chance to make up for that in the next three days.

That starts with tonight's quarterfinal against Pittsburgh, up next after the seventh-seeded Mountaineers eliminated 10th-seeded Notre Dame 74-62 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

"We lost to Louisville at their place by six, at home by three. All kinds of games like that, Connecticut by five at home," the Brooksville Central grad said after scoring a game-high 25 against Notre Dame. "This is basically trying to get payback. That's what it is. The great thing about this tournament is you get to play all those teams all over again."

The pursuit of payback starts against a Pittsburgh team that beat West Virginia (22-10) twice in the regular season. Against Notre Dame, the Mountaineers took a 26-6 lead, then held off the Irish late in the second half when the lead dwindled to seven. Ruoff stopped the run with a three-point play with 2:36 to play, and Notre Dame wouldn't get closer than eight points again.

"He makes a great cut and a three-point play when they're starting to make the thing interesting," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.

Forward Da'Sean Butler scored 20, guard Darryl Bryant added 17 and freshman forward Devin Ebanks had 15 rebounds to go with seven points and a team-high five assists.

Notre Dame (18-14) opened the season 10-2 and ranked No. 10 but struggled in Big East play, losing seven straight at one point. The Irish, who got 27 points from forward Luke Harangody, likely will have to settle for the NIT, much like Big East rivals Georgetown and Cincinnati.

PROVIDENCE 83, DePAUL 74: Eighth-seeded Providence, trying to stay alive on the NCAA Tournament bubble, held off 16th-seeded DePaul, which led much of the second half but couldn't pick up a second upset in as many days.

DePaul, which went 0-18 in conference play before stunning Cincinnati on Tuesday, led Providence with five minutes to play, but the Friars scored nine in a row in a span of 68 seconds to take a 70-62 lead.

"We knew we had to play 40 minutes. We had that one wall," DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said. "We hit that one wall and it really hurt us."

DePaul guard Will Walker scored 31 and forward Dar Tucker added 30. Sharaud Curry led Providence with 25 points, and Weyinmi Efejuku scored 23. The Friars face top-seeded Louisville at noon today.

MARQUETTE 74, ST. JOHN's 45: The 13th-seeded Red Storm set a tournament record for fewest points in a half, managing just 10 in the first half. St. John's went 3-for-22 with zero assists in the half, breaking a mark set by Georgetown against Seton Hall in 2001.

Fifth-seeded Marquette, which snapped a four-game losing streak, got 20 points and nine rebounds from guard Wesley Matthews, and the Golden Eagles outrebounded St. John's 41-22.

Forward Lazar Hayward had 17 points and nine rebounds for Marquette, which faces fourth-seeded Villanova today. The teams split two regular-season meetings, but Marquette coach Buzz Williams remembers losing 102-84 in Philadelphia last month.

"We better get back in transition or they'll score 100 like they did the last time," he said. "They absolutely whipped us, more so than any other team in our league."

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3346. View his blog at blogs.sptimes.com/usf/

West Virginia beats Notre Dame to advance in Big East men's basketball tournament 03/11/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 12, 2009 3:29pm]
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