Mountaineers Topple UK on Way to Final Four - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Mountaineers Topple UK on Way to Final Four

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Country road, take me home.

Or better yet, Indianapolis.

It's almost heaven, West Virginia. Da'Sean Butler and the

Mountaineers are off to the Final Four for the first time since

1959.

Joe Mazzulla scored a career-high 17 points in his first start

this season and West Virginia handled a cold-shooting Kentucky team

stocked with future NBA players almost from the opening tip for a

73-66 victory in the East Regional final Saturday night.

"It's something we've been preaching," Butler said. "Not even

just two more. Ever since we won our first game. Five more, four

more, three more. It doesn't mean anything unless you win the whole

thing."

Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins, back with his alma mater, is in

the Final Four for the first time since taking Cincinnati in 1992.

It's an even longer stretch for West Virginia - Jerry West was the

star of the team 51 years ago, and not yet a Hall of Famer or NBA

logo.

"The first day I was here, I told them I came back to win a

national championship," Huggins said. "I came back to win it for

the university, having played there, and for the great people of

our state."

For freshman sensation John Wall and the young Wildcats (35-3),

a scintillating season ended with a clang.

They were awful from 3-point range, missing their first 20

attempts and finishing a stunning 4 of 32 (12.5 percent). DeAndre

Liggins finally hit a 3 with 3:29 left to end the drought, but by

then it was too late.

West Virginia went the other way, making eight 3s in the first

half without a 2-point basket.

The second-seeded Mountaineers (31-6) used the same aggressive,

in-your-face defense that led them to their three previous

tournament wins. They closed the lanes, leaving Kentucky's speedy

guards with few chances to penetrate. And they flustered Kentucky's

big men, particularly center DeMarcus Cousins, by collapsing three

players into the post once he got the ball.

West Virginia also denied the top-seeded Wildcats easy shots by

committing fouls and forcing Kentucky to make free throws, which

didn't happen. The Wildcats went 16 of 29 from the line.

"They made shots and the 1-3-1 bothered us more than I thought

it would," Kentucky coach John Calipari said.

Calipari led his talented team to the regional final in his

first season, restoring the Wildcats among college basketball's

elite after several underachieving seasons.

But they showed their inexperience in this one, misfiring all

night after using a swarming defense to beat tournament darling

Cornell in the round of 16.

Calipari was left staring at the Carrier Dome roof, wondering

what he could do. Now, his focus shifts to which Wildcats are

coming back.

Wall, who scored 19 points, might be the No. 1 overall pick in

the NBA draft if he decides he's one-and-done at UK. Cousins,

another fab freshman, and Patrick Patterson also could bolt the

Bluegrass for the NBA. Cousins scored 15 points.

"We've had games where we missed free throws and 3-pointers,

but our defense, we gave up a lot of layups. And they just

outplayed us," Cousins said. "We played bad defense. We were

supposed to go under the screen but we were going over, which was

giving them layups. I mean, simple stuff that we know better."

Calipari built Kentucky into a championship contender again, and

the Wildcats routed their first two tournament opponents. They

became favorites to win an eighth national title when No. 1 overall

seed Kansas was upset in the second round.

But other than an 11-0 run early, the Wildcats were wildly

ineffective all game. Darius Miller missed all six shots, and

Patterson and Eric Bledsoe were a combined 6 for 16.

Mazzulla, meanwhile, played the game of his life when West

Virginia really needed it.

Hindered by a surgically repaired shoulder, the backup guard

came off the bench in 35 games this season and averaged 2.2 points

- barely worth a mention in most scouting reports. He started

Saturday because West Virginia point guard Darryl Bryant broke his

right foot Tuesday in practice.

Mazzulla dashed uncontested to the rim for several easy baskets.

When he was out of the game, he was on all fours in front of the

bench slamming the court in encouragement.

West Virginia fans chanted "Final Four! Final Four!" as the

players took their spots at halfcourt after the final buzzer.

Butler, who scored 18 points, led the Mountaineers in a little

Final Four dance and they cupped their ears to the crowd.

"I talked about it being special," Huggins told the crowd.

"Two more and it will be really special."

It's been a turbulent time for Huggins since his previous Final

Four appearance. He was forced out at Cincinnati, had a heart

attack in 2002 and spent a year coaching Kansas State before he

found the country roads back to Morgantown in 2007.

He couldn't have imagined at the start of the tournament relying

on Mazzulla to take his team to Indianapolis.

But the Mountaineers had the stage Saturday after Kentucky

grabbed the spotlight all season.

Butler, who played with a sore right hand, was a big part of

Kentucky's problem. He made four of West Virginia's 10 3-pointers

The Mountaineers led 28-26 at halftime in one of the quirkiest

20 minutes of shooting in tournament history. They made eight of 15

3-pointers - and went 0 for 16 on 2s. Not inside, not mid-range,

not from anywhere except beyond the arc.

Butler hit four of them, shouting toward the crowd and pounding

his chest after each one.

More oddities: Kentucky missed all eight 3s in the first half

and outrebounded WVU 29-13. But the Mountaineers had only three

turnovers after averaging 11.9 per game this season.

Mazzulla made five of 11 shots before fouling out late in the

game, but all of them were clutch.

Kentucky had the lottery picks. West Virginia had Mazzulla.

Now, Mountaineers fans will be singing "Take Me Home, Country

Roads," from Syracuse to Morgantown and all the way to

Indianapolis.

 

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