It’s been more than a week since West Virginia played a Big East game. The ninth-ranked Mountaineers, though, may have gained a major dose of confidence during its week out of conference.
West Virginia returns to conference play Tuesday night when it tries to improve to 4-0 all-time in Big East games against DePaul.
The Mountaineers (15-3, 4-2) faced an unusual week after a 72-71 loss to then-No. 5 Syracuse on Jan. 16 with two non-conference games. They earned a 68-60 victory over a 15-2 Marshall team on Wednesday before returning home to rally from a 12-point halftime deficit for a 71-65 win over then-No. 21 Ohio State on Saturday.
West Virginia allowed Ohio State to shoot 55 percent in the first half before clamping down. The Buckeyes made just one basket over the final 8 minutes.
“We challenged all of them at halftime to go out and do what we do,” coach Bob Huggins said.
Da’Sean Butler turned in another big second half to power the Mountaineers. He scored 12 of his 16 points after the break in the win over Marshall and had 16 of his 21 n the second half against Ohio State.
“You miss shots and you make shots,” said Butler after Saturday’s win. “I was just happy to go out there and lead my team to a victory the best way I can.”
The senior guard has posted double-doubles in his last two games against DePaul (8-11, 1-6) with averages of 15.0 points and 11.5 rebounds in those contests. The Mountaineers are 3-0 against the Blue Demons in Big East play, winning by an average of 14.3 points.
West Virginia overcame a huge game from Will Walker in last season’s 82-63 home win over DePaul. The Blue Demons guard made a career-high seven 3-pointers and scored 31 points, but the rest of the team shot 34.3 percent.
“They’ve got some guys that are very capable of making shots,” Huggins told West Virginia’s official athletics Web site. “When they get it going, they’re pretty good.”
Walker is the leading scorer for DePaul with 16.0 points per game, and surpassed his effort against West Virginia with a new career high in his last game. The senior guard scored 35 points in Saturday’s 87-77 loss at Notre Dame.
“He’s getting his shots,” said Huggins about Walker. “They’re running things for him but they’re always running things for him.”
The Blue Demons ended their 24-game losing streak in Big East regular-season games with a 51-50 victory over Marquette last Wednesday in their third game under interim coach Tracy Webster, who replaced Jerry Wainwright on Jan. 11.
DePaul reverted to its losing ways Saturday, allowing Notre Dame to finish with 22 assists and two turnovers.
“Right now, defense is supposed to be our deal,” Webster said. “Tonight, for whatever reason, we didn’t do a good job.”
The Blue Demons have lost 19 straight against ranked teams, including two Big East games this season by an average of 22.0 points.