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
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
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
"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
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
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