NCAA: W. Virginia has no post presence vs. Kentucky, who outscores Mountaineers 12-0 in paintBy Dave Skretta, AP
Saturday, March 27, 2010
NCAA: Kentucky dominating in the paint
West Virginia has no post presence against Kentucky, which has outscored the Mountaineers 12-0 in the paint. The Wildcats, by contrast, are 0 for 6 from beyond the arc.
Da’Sean Butler just hit a 3-pointer for West Virginia, his first points of the game, and the Mountaineers are 4 of 9 from beyond the arc and 0 for 9 from inside of it.
Strange game in the first half.
John Wall is showing he can play a little defense, too.
The Kentucky freshman just stuffed Joe Mazzulla on a drive to the basket, and West Virginia now has scored on only one of its last 17 possessions. The Mountaineers also have been doubled up in the rebounding category, 14-7, even though they’ve forced six Wildcat turnovers.
Wall might have a double-double by halftime. He has eight points and six boards already, and Kentucky leads 16-9 with about 7 minutes to go before the break.
Bob Huggins just called a timeout for no other reason then to complain to the officials.
John Wall tried to gather the ball coming around a screen and Joe Mazzulla poked it into the backcourt. The officials allowed Wall to grab the ball — it was a toss-up on whether it should be a backcourt violation — and the freshman guard came back to hit a deep jumper.
Clearly, Huggins didn’t think the backcourt call was a toss-up.
Kentucky leads 16-9 and Wall has already done a little bit of everything. He has a team-high eight points, five rebounds and two assists to go with the Wildcats’ only steal.
Without injured point guard Darryl Bryant, Joe Mazzulla might become a critical component for West Virginia if it wants to beat top-seeded Kentucky.
Ever since he hurt his right shoulder in December 2008, missing the rest of that season, the junior guard has struggled with his shot. Mazzulla had missed all six of his 3-point attempts this season coming into the East Regional finals, so Kentucky had been leaving him wide open around the perimeter.
Mazzulla averages only 2.2 points, but he just hit his first 3-pointer of the season to get the Mountaineers within 13-9. All of their baskets in the game, in fact, have been 3s.
Kentucky has been pretty good when it gets a shot off, but it has turned the ball over on four of its last five possessions. It’s a wonder the Wildcats still lead 13-6.
The reason is that West Virginia has gone about 6 minutes without a basket, missing 10 straight shots after hitting a pair of early 3-pointers.
This might as well be an NBA tryout for Kentucky freshman sensation John Wall.
He converted a follow, fed fellow freshman DeMarcus Cousins for consecutive layups, then took a one-man break to the basket and converted the three-point play. A couple minutes later, Wall caused another turnover and was headed on another break when he stepped out of bounds.
John Calipari has compared Wall favorably to Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans, two guards who jumped to the pros early after successful stints at Memphis. ___
There’s a lot at stake in the Kentucky-West Virginia game.
The Wildcats are trying to add an eighth national championship banner to Rupp Arena, while coach John Calipari is trying to reach a Final Four that counts — trips with Memphis and Massachusetts have been vacated by the NCAA.
The Mountaineers haven’t been to the Final Four since 1951, while coach Bob Huggins hasn’t been there since 1992, when he led Cincinnati to the national semifinals.
Calipari and Huggins are good friends, by the way. In fact, when Huggins had his heart attack, Calipari was one of the first to visit him in the hospital. And it was Calipari’s nephew in the ambulance that transported Huggins there.
Kentucky wants to make West Virginia play at a quicker tempo, something Kansas State tried unsuccessfully to do against Butler. Just like in that game, the Mountaineers would love to see the winning score in the 60s.
The Wildcats have used a little token full-court press to speed things up — that, and the fact that West Virginia had 23 turnovers in its win over Washington. Remember, the Mountaineers are missing a good ballhandler in Darryl Bryant, who broke his right foot Tuesday.
West Virginia has hit a couple of outside shots and took an early 6-4 lead.
Da’Sean Butler’s shooting hand looks just fine in Syracuse, where West Virginia and Kentucky soon will be trying to join Butler in the Final Four.
The West Virginia star clutched his right hand in pain after a hard fall in the Mountaineers’ 69-56 win over Washington on Thursday night, and he had the hand and wrist wrapped in ice after Friday’s practice as a precaution.
The East Regional final is the classic case of a thoroughbred in Kentucky — how apropos — facing a Clydesdale in West Virginia. Both teams play good defense, but the Mountaineers are far stingier, while the Wildcats have the ability to score points in bunches.
Kentucky has won its first three games in the NCAA tournament by an average of 25 points.
Big East tournament champion West Virginia, meanwhile, has held its last six opponents under 60 points, including Washington, Missouri and Morgan State in the NCAA tournament.
Something has to give.
Butler coach Brad Stevens, the guy with the choirboy looks, may have said it best after donning a hat proclaiming the Bulldogs’ place in the Final Four: “We were going back to Indiana regardless, but we’re going to wear these hats all the way home.”
The contingent of Butler fans who made their way from Indianapolis to Salt Lake City chanted “Final Four!” and “Let’s Go Home!” as the players put on their championship hats and T-shirts before cutting down the nets. They had flooded the court and were celebrating, with Stevens delivering a flying chest bump to one of his players, while Kansas State players trudged back to the locker room after one of the best seasons in school history.
One that ends in bitter disappointment.
“We just want to come out and defend, and focus on our job,” Stevens said, “and these guys did a great job. We were just trying to stay with the two guards, every ball screen they set, we were going to trap them.”
Those guards were Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, who never seemed to be in the game for Kansas State. They combined for 32 points, about 20 fewer than they had against Xavier.
Butler got out to a 10-point lead in the second half, Kansas State responded with a run that gave them a brief — oh so brief — lead, before the Bulldogs put down the hammer in the final 5 minutes. Their nation-leading win streak now stands at 24 games.
And right now, there’s nothing to believe it won’t be 26 by the time next season starts.
Butler has earned a trip home for the Final Four.
Gordon Hayward made a driving layup with under a minute to go, and the fifth-seeded Bulldogs used the same tenacious defense they exhibited all game in the closing seconds to knock off second-seeded Kansas State 63-56 in the West Regional finals.
Hayward finished with 22 points to lead Butler, but the scoring was secondary to the defense, which caused trouble for Kansas State stars Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen all game.
Clemente finished with 18 points, all but two in the second half, but he missed a critical free throw in the closing seconds. Pullen was just 3 of 12 from the field and turned the ball over twice with the Wildcats behind by four and under 30 seconds left.
So the Horizon League school that practices at the same place they filmed the championship game in the movie “Hoosiers,” Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, will have a chance to win its own championship in the city it calls home.
Butler will play Michigan State or Tennessee in the national semifinals next weekend.
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