Butler leads No. 9 West Virginia over Louisville
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP)—West Virginia turned to Da’Sean Butler for another late comeback.
The veteran guard scored a season-high 27 points, including the go-ahead basket with 16 seconds remaining, as No. 9 West Virginia rallied to beat Louisville 77-74 on Saturday.
Butler is the biggest reason why the Mountaineers (17-3, 6-2 Big East) have won four straight. In each of those games, he led the team in scoring, and this time helped West Virginia come from 12 down midway through the second half to snap a four-game skid against Louisville.
“He’s been unbelievable,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “I wish he wouldn’t wait until the end.”
“I’m not going to lie,” Butler said. “I’ve seen pretty much every comeback possible in college and been a part of a couple so unless there’s five seconds left and we’re down 10, I know there’s a good chance that we can come back.”
The Cardinals (13-8, 4-4) seemed to be in control after Samardo Samuels’ layup put them ahead 65-53 with 10 minutes left, but they made only three field goals the rest of the game.
“Our defense kind of fizzled away,” said Louisville’s Reginald Delk. “They were scoring, making baskets and started playing defense on the other end and that’s how they won the game.”
Kevin Jones scored eight of his 16 points during an 11-0 run, including a three-point play that tied the score 70-all with 3:01 left. After the teams traded baskets, Devin Ebanks snared a long rebound with 41 seconds left that extended a long possession for West Virginia.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino took offense to two possession calls in the final seconds that went West Virginia’s way.
He thought the ball went off the head of West Virginia’s Joe Mazzulla before going out of bounds with 19 seconds left. Instead, Butler hit a 15-foot jumper off the inbound pass to put the Mountaineers ahead for good.
Delk missed a 3-point try with 9 seconds left. The ball went out of bounds again and West Virginia got it back—to Pitino’s chagrin.
Butler was fouled on the inbound pass and made two free throws for the final margin.
Mike Marra’s long attempt at the buzzer for Louisville never hit the rim.
In brief postgame remarks before walking away, Pitino said he got a “bogus explanation” after questioning the officials following Delk’s missed shot. “I’m tired of the officiating. That’s why I’m not speaking. I’m tired of the officiating.
“My kids played their hearts out. They played their tails off. The ball was off the young man’s head. They gave it to them back,” Pitino said. “You don’t shoot (52) percent and play as hard as that and expect those situations, so I’ve had it with the officiating. So I’m not going to say anymore. I’ve had it.”
Butler said he initially thought Louisville would get the ball back after Delk’s miss.
“At first, I thought it was their ball,” Butler said. “I had the rebound and then I knocked it out of Devin’s hand and I was like, ‘Ah, I’m stupid.’ But then the officials said it was our ball and I said ‘good play.”’
Entering the final 10 games of the regular season, West Virginia has momentum with a matchup with No. 17 Pittsburgh looming Wednesday.
Louisville, on the other hand, faces quite the climb to get back into the NCAA tournament picture. The Cardinals return home to play No. 19 Connecticut on Monday, and Pitino has said Louisville needs to win seven times to make the tournament.
Samuels and Delk scored 16 points apiece for Louisville, which fell to 0-4 against ranked teams this season. Reserve Peyton Siva added 14 points.
Huggins, who earned his first win in four tries at West Virginia over Pitino, has always preached starting and finishing strong. His team did just that.
In between, it fell apart.
West Virginia raced to a 13-0 lead in the first three minutes, then behind Siva’s three 3-pointers, 11 first-half points from Delk and a full-court press, Louisville steadied itself.
The Cardinals shot 61 percent (17 of 28) from the floor in the first half, led 44-40 at halftime and extended the lead further down the stretch.
Despite the comeback, West Virginia shot below 50 percent from the field for the ninth straight game. And for the second straight time, the Mountaineers got little help from their bench: Louisville outscored the Mountaineer reserves 26-5.
On Louisville’s side, the Terrence Jennings experiment is still a work in progress.
The 6-foot-10 sophomore got his second straight start but Louisville’s big lineup failed to produce a point or rebound over the first three minutes. Jennings played just 17 minutes and finished with four points.