Butler, Nichols lead West Virginia past South Florida, 69-52
TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Da’Sean Butler and Darris Nichols scored 15 points apiece Sunday to pace a balanced scoring attack that carried West Virginia to its first Big East road victory, a 69-52 win over South Florida.
For the second straight game, the Mountaineers (14-4, 4-2) overcame poor first-half shooting to continue its strong start under coach Bob Huggins, who’s in his first season at his alma mater.
Alex Ruoff added 14 points and Joe Mazzulla delivered off 11 of his during the Mountaineers’ 31-11 game-ending surge that dropped South Florida (10-9, 1-5) to 5-33 in conference play since the Bulls joined the Big East three years ago.
Kentrell Gransberry, coming off a 21-point, 10-rebound performance in a road loss to Seton Hall, led USF with 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting. He scored his team’s first 13 points of the second half, helping the Bulls take a 41-36 lead before West Virginia took over the game.
Wellington Smith put the Mountaineers ahead for good, 42-41, and Mazzulla’s 3-point play finished a 21-4 run that enabled West Virginia to pull away over a nine-minute stretch in which Gransberry was held to one point.
West Virginia shot 59 percent in the second half to pull away from a halftime tie to beat St. John’s 73-64 on Thursday night. This time, the Mountaineers scored the last eight of the opening half to 26-25 at the break, despite shooting less than 30 percent (8-of-27) from the field.
Butler score nine of West Virginia’s first 12 points in the second half, helping the Mountaineers withstand Gransberry’s domination near the basket. The sophomore forward also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
Dominique Jones had 11 points and Jesus Verdejo added 10 for USF.