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W. Va. only Big East team left

Washington’s Elston Turner fights to control the ball as West Virginia’s Cam Thoroughman, left, and Kevin Jones defend.

Associated Press

Washington’s Elston Turner fights to control the ball as West Virginia’s Cam Thoroughman, left, and Kevin Jones defend.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Da'Sean Butler shook off a sore right hand and helped West Virginia shake off Washington to reach the East Region final.

Butler kept playing after hurting himself midway through the second half and scored 14 points, and Kevin Jones added 18 and eight rebounds in leading the second-seeded Mountaineers over the 11th-seeded Huskies 69-56 Thursday night.

The Big East champions (30-6) won their ninth in a row and set a school record for victories, surpassing the Jerry West-led 1958-59 team that lost in the NCAA championship game.

Justin Holiday scored 14 and added eight rebounds for the Huskies (26-10), who were at a disadvantage after leading scorer Quincy Pondexter picked up his third foul with 4:27 left in the first half. Pondexter didn't hit his first basket until 2:30 into the second half, and scored seven.

Point guard Isaiah Thomas scored 13 before fouling out with 2:41 left. The Huskies had a nine-game winning streak snapped.

The Mountaineers won their first game since point guard Darryl Bryant broke a bone in his right foot in practice on Tuesday. And it appeared to take a half for West Virginia to find its rhythm.

Trailing by as many as six late in the first half, the Mountaineers went ahead for good with 14:14 left in the second half, when Jones hit a 3-pointer to make it 39-37. That was part of an 11-1 spurt that was capped by Wellington Smith's putback of a Casey Mitchell miss.

The Mountaineers improved to 11-0 at neutral sites and held their sixth straight opponent to under 59 points, dating to a 54-51 win over Cincinnati to open the Big East tournament.

"It felt like it was eight against five out there," Huskies forward Darnell Gant said.

Asked how it feels to be the last Big East team in the tournament, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins shrugged and said, "We want to be the last one standing, period."

The momentum turned midway through the second half, when the Mountaineers avoided a scare and the Huskies lost their composure.

It began with a little over nine minutes left when Butler — the team's senior guard and leading scorer — fell hard and landed on his right arm. He was down for a few minutes, and a gasp went up around the Carrier Dome once everyone realized it was Butler.

Butler got up and continued playing, though he spent much of the next minute checking his hand and shaking it.

"Once I stood up, the one thing that was pretty numb was my hand, and I said, 'All right, I'll be fine,' " he said.

With 8:11 remaining, he played a key role in blowing the game open.

Getting the ball at the top of the key, Butler drew a foul as he attempted to spin around Holiday. The whistle was late, which incensed Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar, who ripped off his sport coat as he marched up the sideline toward the officials, who gave the coach a technical.

Devin Ebanks and Butler combined to hit all four free throws to provide the Mountaineers their largest lead, 56-43.

Washington had nothing in the second half, which it opened by missing 11 of its first 14 attempts, and finished the game 22-for-56.

The high-tempo Huskies controlled the pace by leading for most of the first half, taking advantage of Bryant's absence.

While the Huskies ran the floor, the Mountaineers at times looked lost.

Ebanks and Butler shared the duties of getting the ball up court, but the Mountaineers at times lacked rhythm and were particularly sloppy in committing 13 turnovers in the first half alone — three more than they committed all game in a 68-59 win over Missouri on Sunday. They entered the game averaging 11.6 turnovers.

W. Va. only Big East team left 03/25/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 10:35pm]
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