West Virginia 81
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—For the next three years, Seton Hall and Rutgers are going to regret not having recruited Da’Sean Butler of Newark a lot harder.
Butler capped a show for both New Jersey schools over the past four days by scoring a career-high 21 points to lead West Virginia to an 81-70 victory over Seton Hall on Saturday.
It was the second straight career game for Butler, a backup freshman forward who had 17 in a win over Rutgers on Wednesday.
“It was definitely special coming back to see my family and just to play against the teams we were playing,” said Butler, a former Bloomfield Tech player who came into the game averaging 9.5 points. “Rutgers and Seton Hall are well coached and play hard. It felt real good to come on and play real well here.”
While his first shot was awful, Butler finished 8-of-14 from the field and 3-of-5 from 3-point range in leading the Mountaineers (18-4, 7-3 Big East) to their fourth straight win.
“I just got a lot of open looks, and I just shot the ball,” Butler said after almost personally handing Seton Hall (12-10, 3-6) its fourth straight conference loss.
Joe Alexander, who added 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists, wasn’t surprised, noting that Butler was demanding the ball.
“Da’Sean is nasty,” Alexander said. “We see it every day in practice. That he hasn’t had more of these games is a little surprising.”
Frank Young added 17 points for West Virginia, which never trailed after hitting 11 of its first 14 shots to open an early 18-point lead. Darris Nichols had 16, including six free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Eugene Harvey had 23 points to lead Seton Hall. Brian Laing added 22 and Jamar Nutter 12 for the Pirates, who used a 16-3 run late in the first half to get back into the game.
Butler came up big a couple of times in the second half when the Pirates threatened.
After Seton Hall cut the lead to 38-33, Butler hit a layup. After the Pirates got within 49-43 with 10:47 to play, Butler sandwiched two 3-pointers around a Laing basket. The 6-foot-7 Newark resident also drove the lane for a layup with 3:30 to go to push West Virginia’s lead to 67-59.
“He’s a gamer,” West Virginia coach John Beilein said. “You see guys who become gamers, and you see guys that are born gamers. He appeared to be a born gamer from the minute he walked into our gym. The more pressure, the better he is going to be.”
Butler was recruited by both Seton Hall and Rutgers, but both schools had coaching changes after last season with Bobby Gonzalez replacing Louis Orr with the Pirates and Fred Hill taking over for Gary Waters with the Scarlet Knights.
Gonzalez said that Butler had committed to West Virginia before he was hired, although Butler said he did speak with Gonzalez before making a decision.
Ironically, current Pirates administrative assistant Shaheen Holloway worked with Butler as an assistant coach at Bloomfield Tech last season.
“It goes without saying, I am devastated and crushed to see Da’Sean Butler come back and get 21 against us because I just love the kid,” Gonzalez said. “I think he is a terrific player. It’s a great get for West Virginia. I think the kid is going to be a star. To be honest, he is one of the best freshman I have seen in the league.”
West Virginia, which shot a season-high 65 percent from the field in beating Rutgers, came out hot again. Alexander scored nine points, Butler had seven and Young six in the opening eight-plus minutes to built a 28-11 lead.
Laing and Paul Gause each had four points in the run that got the Pirates within 31-27. West Virginia eventually led by six at halftime.