Butler and Smith score 14 to lead West Virginia
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP)—Wellington Smith has solidified West Virginia’s starting lineup. Now someone needs to do the same for the Mountaineers’ bench.
Smith and Da’Sean Butler scored 14 points apiece to lead No. 9 West Virginia to a 62-46 win over DePaul on Tuesday night.
Devin Ebanks also had 14 points for West Virginia (16-3, 5-2 Big East), which has won three straight after a 72-71 loss to Syracuse on Jan. 16.
Leading 37-28 at the half, Smith made back-to-back 3s for West Virginia and Ebanks had a putback to build the Mountaineers lead to 45-30.
“Wells has been in early and he’s really worked on his technique. When he gets the ball up he generally shoots it pretty well,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “As long as Wells can step out make shots I think Devin is playing better now. I think this was a good game for Devin.”
West Virginia got only two points out of its bench players.
“Go in and be soft with the ball, and go in and play with not really great intensity, they’re not going to get in,” Huggins said. “We’ll continue to shorten the bench if they’re not going to be productive.”
Will Walker led DePaul (8-12, 1-7) with 17 points. DePaul trailed by double-digits for most of the second half.
After back-to-back non-conference wins against Marshall and rallying from a 12-point halftime deficit to beat Ohio State on Saturday, the Mountaineers returned to Big East play by starting the game by connecting on their first three 3-point attempts. Butler hit back-to-back 3s to start and Smith followed with another 3.
Ebanks gave West Virginia a 13-2 lead on a putback and Smith extended the Moutaineers advantage to 20-4 on another 3. But DePaul answered with a 14-5 run.
Walker made a 3 to get DePaul to 24-18 and Eric Wallace made two free throws to cut the West Virginia lead to 29-25. The Mountaineers finished the half by outscoring the Blue Demons 8-3 to take a 37-28 lead.
“The beginning of the game hurt us a lot, getting down by a big deficit,” DePaul guard Michael Bizoukas said. “Like Coach said, we fought for most of the game, but when you get down, to the last eight minutes of the game, it’s not an excuse, but you burn out and that’s kind of what happened.”
Butler led West Virginia with 12 points in the first half and Walker had 13 points, connecting on 3 of 4 3-point attempts.
The troubles continued for DePaul, which has lost 34 of its last 37 regular season Big East games dating back to Jan. 26, 2008. DePaul interim head coach Tracy Webster is now 1-4 since taking over for Jerry Wainwright, who was fired on Jan. 11. After ending a streak of losing 24 consecutive Big East regular-season games by beating Marquette, the Blue Demons have lost two in a row.
“I keep saying it, I truly believe we’re going to be fine. We just have to continue to get better, but we can’t continue to have those slow starts whether it is in the first half or second half,” Webster said.
DePaul center Krys Faber was ejected in the second half for a flagrant elbow that hit Butler in the side of the head.
The beginning of the second half was delayed for about 10 minutes after the shot clock malfunctioned. The teams had an extra warmup session as the personnel at the Allstate Arena struggled to fix the problem.
Mac Koshwal played after missing the last four games with a right foot injury. He finished with seven points.
Darry Bryant finished with 14 points on 8 of 11 shooting from the line.