A rip-roaring Big East title game came down to the last two possessions tonight at Madison Square Garden. West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler got first crack to be a hero, drove into traffic under the basket and somehow got a layup to bounce softly on the rim and fall in for a 60-58 lead with 4.2 seconds to play.
Then, it was Chris Wright's turn for Georgetown. He made a series of surpassingly brilliant plays for the Hoyas and was on the verge of another as he went end to end through West Virginia's lineup, got into the paint and went up for a layup. But he was a little too far out and it only got as far as the front rim before bounding away as the red light flashed around the backboard.
Butler said his winning basket was "the same play" the Mountaineers ran at the end of the Cincinnati game when he was forced to pull up above the key and banked in a three-pointer. This time, he was able to drive the paint.
It was a great ending to a terrific game between two teams that are capable of going deep into the NCAA tournament. West Virginia (27-6) won its first Big East tourney title, and now, the No. 7 Mountaineers possibly have a chance to pass Syracuse for a No. 1 NCAA regional seed and at least are assured of a No. 2 seed. The Hoyas (23-10) came in as the eighth seed in the conference but will be on a much higher rung in the Big Dance.
Butler, who hit two game-winners in the tournament, was named MVP after scoring 20 points and grabbing six rebounds. Kevin Jones had 12 points for the Mountaineers, and Wellington Smith added 11 points, 10 boards and some effective defense on Georgetown center Greg Monroe, who totaled 11 points and six rebounds but got off only seven shots. Wright had 20 points and seven assists, and Austin Freeman added 14 points.
"They were denying really hard and making it difficult for me to get the ball in the post," Monroe said. "They were sending two. They were sending extra help from both sides, from the top side and from the baseline. So, they kind of made it real hard for me to score and get the ball."
One key was the play of Devin Ebanks, who scored only two points for West Virginia but had eight rebounds, got to a bunch of loose balls and double-teamed Monroe effectively. The Mountaineers never trailed in the second half of any of their three tournament games, although they were tied a few times.
With 51.3 seconds left tonight, Freeman hit a three from the right wing to knot the game at 56. When the Mountaineers had the ball, Joe Mazzulla was fouled by Wright with 27.6 seconds to go and made both for a 58-56 lead.
Asked why he fouled at that point, Wright shrugged and said, "I made a mistake."
Wright got it back quickly with a driving layup at the other end to tie the score again at 58 and set up the final two plays for each team. Asked if he considered pulling up for a jumper at the end, Wright said, "No, I was thinking of trying to get to the basket, trying to finish, try to get a layup. Just get to the basket and get it to overtime."
Following the game, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins was asked about the possibility of getting a No. 1 regional seed. He noted that the Mountaineers likely will finish either second or third in the RPI ratings and added, "I don't know what else you have to do."