There's no question about the play of the day in the Big East tournament. Following a turnover in the backcourt by Cincinnati's Dion Dixon with 3.1 seconds left in a 51-all game, West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler banked in a fadeaway three-pointer from the top of the key for a 54-51 victory tonight at the Garden.
Coach Bob Huggins said he drew it up to get Butler at the top of the key, but the Mountaineers star nearly lost the ball and was forced to go up with the Bearcats' Lance Stephenson in his face. Butler leaned back slightly and launched a shot that was right on line but long. No matter. It banked in cleanly as the buzzer went off.
"A little luck helps," Butler said.
Third-seeded West Virginia (25-6) was the only one of the top four seeds to advance after sitting out the first two rounds with the double bye. The Mountaineers will meet Notre Dame in the semifinals Friday night.
Cincinnati (18-15) was playing its third game in three days, and the fatigue showed early as it fell behind, 18-4, and didn't score its first field goal until 9:17 remained in the first half. The Bearcats came back to tie the game three times at 23, 47 and 51 but could never take a lead.
They had a chance to inbound the ball for a final shot with 6.4 seconds left, but coach Mick Cronin had them call a timeout. Freshman Lance Stephenson, who scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half to lead Cincy's comeback, threw up his hands in frustration because he was open and calling for the ball in the backcourt. When the Bearcats returned to the court, Cronin had them inbound the ball to Dixon and stationed Stephenson at midcourt on the opposite side of the floor.
Pressured by the Mountaineer's trapping defense in the backcourt, Dixon dribbled the ball off his foot to give West Virginia the chance to inbound in its offensive end with time for one shot. Butler didn't call "Glass," but it didn't matter.
Before he made the buzzer-beater, West Virginia was three of 19 from three-point range. Butler totaled 15 points and five assists, and Kevin Jones had 17 points. West Virginia shot only 35 percent, but that was better than Cincinnati's 33.3 percent.
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