Da'Sean Butler was the one who had invoked West Virginia's credo: "If you want to be special, you have to do special things." This qualified. It definitely qualified.
His drive and short jumper with 4.2 seconds left last night gave the Mountaineers their first Big East Tournament championship, one that Butler, who scored 20 points, had said a day earlier would "mean the world to me." His basket was the difference in another classic Big East final, a 60-58 win over Georgetown.
"We ran the same play we ran at the end of the Cincinnati game," Butler said, adding that it evolved differently. Then, he retreated for a three-pointer to beat the Bearcats on Thursday night, 54-51. This time, he went past Greg Monroe and Austin Freeman to the hoop.
It was one-upmanship for Butler with Ohio State star Evan Turner, whom Butler had texted after Turner made a last-second shot to beat Michigan on Friday. "I said, 'Good shot. I'll have to go out and match it.' I didn't think I was going to match it. I was just talking to him," Butler said. "Lucky me."
The Hoyas had one last chance as Chris Wright, who had 20 points, drove to the basket, but his shot fell short. And instantly, the Mountaineers, ranked No. 7 in the nation, were celebrating and singing the words "Take me home, country roads."
"We are extremely disappointed, but this too shall pass," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "We need to move on and get ready for next week. That's hard to say 15 minutes after the fact. I'm not at that point yet; neither is this group. We will get there."
So West Virginia will carry the banner of the Big East into the NCAA Tournament, which will seem a little anticlimactic.
Even though both sides had NCAA bids locked up a long time ago, there was no denying this was a big deal.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins didn't come out and say his team deserves a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but he did point out the Mountaineers' various qualifications, such as strength of schedule. But the greatest credential seems to be the conference his team just won. "If this isn't the best league in the country," Huggins said, "I need to quit coaching."
Butler, a senior from Newark, said Huggins had been exhorting the team all season. "If you want to be special," Butler said, "you have to do special things."
The Mountaineers knew they were going to have their hands full with a special player in Georgetown's Greg Monroe. The 6-11 sophomore made as big an impact as anyone at the Garden this week.
He sure did have his moments in the first half. He caught the ball right of the lane, dribbled through traffic to the left and made a layup. He made a perfect pass from the foul line to Austin Freeman underneath. In the final minute before the break, he grabbed a defensive rebound and made a dazzling 40-foot, two-bounce lead pass to Wright, who extended his 6-1 frame for a jam. His free throw made it 30-28.
West Virginia isn't No. 7 in the nation by accident, though. A solid, balanced half ended with Deniz Kilicli missing a hook shot, but Wellington Smith converted an offensive rebound to make it 32-28, setting up a special finish.
Sure enough, they were tied with 51.3 seconds left, when Georgetown's Freeman, the player who recently was diagnosed with diabetes, nailed a three-pointer from the right side and brought an old-fashioned Big East roar.