Loyola, Md. 60, West Virginia 83
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP)—Da’Sean Butler was ready when No. 8 West Virginia needed someone to stabilize a diluted lineup and soften the absence of scoring threat Devin Ebanks.
Butler led four players in double figures with 26 points and the Mountaineers used two second-half runs to pull away to an 83-60 victory over Loyola, Md., on Sunday.
“Da’Sean kept us in the game,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “Where would we be without Da?”’
With only one regular gone from last season’s team that lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Huggins was most concerned entering one of the most anticipated seasons in school history with his team’s rebounding and defense.
But offense became an immediate issue. Ebanks wasn’t on the bench and missed the game for what Huggins called undisclosed personal reasons. Huggins declined to elaborate and said he didn’t know when Ebanks would return.
Backup guard Joe Mazzulla sat out with a sore shoulder and freshman Deniz Kilicli will miss the first 20 games for a violation of an NCAA amateurism rule.
And John Flowers left the game in the first half with an injured foot, although Huggins said X-rays were negative.
Loyola shot 58 percent (15 of 26) from the field and forged a 31-all tie at halftime. West Virginia appeared lost at times on both ends of the court early, but not Butler, who had 11 first-half points and was just getting started.
“We had no sense of urgency and we were just going through the motions,” Butler said. “Sometimes you need somebody to get everybody going and that’s my job as a senior, to get everybody excited.”
West Virginia shot 52 percent (17 of 33) after halftime and had far more offensive threats than the Greyhounds despite being undermanned.
Darrell Bryant added 15 points, Kevin Jones, Ebanks’ replacement, scored 14 and Casey Mitchell had 13 for the Mountaineers (1-0).
Shane Walker scored 14 points and Jamal Barney had 11 for Loyola (1-1). Brett Harvey, who had 23 points in a win over Vermont on Friday, was held to nine against the Mountaineers.
“A great first half. Then we ran out of gas,” Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos said. “And Huggins’ team is always going to come back.”
West Virginia was just 2 of 17 from 3-point range in the first half before finding its mark.
“We took some terrible shots, absolutely terrible shots,” Huggins said. “When you get three 3-pointers blocked, you’re taking too many shots.”
Bryant hit two 3-pointers during an 11-0 run to start the second half and scored 12 points in the first 8 minutes after halftime.
After Loyola narrowed the deficit to six, Butler hit a jumper in the lane and a 3-pointer to start a 19-5 run that put the Mountaineers ahead 69-47 with 7:46 left.
Mitchell, a junior college transfer, was 3 of 11 from the field in his first game at shooting guard after having a torn cartilage repaired in his right knee. Mitchell scored seven points during the decisive run.
Loyola got no closer than 17 points the rest of the game.
“We took them out of their offense and that leaves them to do one thing and go one-on-one,” Butler said. “We rebounded missed shots and did infinitely better than the first half. Still, that wasn’t us tonight.”
West Virginia doesn’t play at home again until Dec. 9 against Duquesne. The Mountaineers head 160 miles south to Charleston, the state capital, to play The Citadel on Nov. 24, followed by three games in five days after on the West Coast.