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Poised West Virginia handles Missouri's pressure

West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler reacts at the end

West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler reacts at the end of his team's second-round win over Missouri in Buffalo, N.Y. (Mar. 21, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

BUFFALO - The point of Missouri's vaunted full-court press - coach Mike Anderson's so-called "40 minutes of hell'' - is to force the opposition to lose its poise while trying to match the Tigers' frantic pace, resulting in chaos. But West Virginia's Mountaineers were too mentally tough to give in to the pressure, knowing they'd have to face the wrath of hard-nosed coach Bob Huggins if they broke down.

West Virginia slowed the tempo to a more comfortable pace whenever possible, committed only 10 turnovers and kept attacking the rim to get to the foul line. They also had the star Missouri lacked in Da'Sean Butler, who scored 28 points to lead West Virginia to a 68-59 second-round NCAA Tournament win Sunday at HSBC Arena.

The Mountaineers (29-6), who advanced to a Sweet 16 matchup against Washington in the East Regional Thursday in Syracuse, actually scored more points off turnovers - by a 9-6 margin - than Missouri (23-11).

"As a team, we didn't really panic at all,'' Butler said. "We just stepped up to the challenge and played like men and broke the press.''

Butler had three turnovers, but Huggins said he was the key to handling the press.

"You have to be able to inbound to somebody who is going to be able to handle a double-team,'' Huggins said. "Da'Sean did a great job of that all day. We talk about his 28 points, but he's a guy who really handled the double-team for us.''

Missouri's Anderson agreed. "The guy that had the statement on his game was Da'Sean Butler,'' Anderson said. "He was the big catalyst, making big plays for West Virginia.''

Butler had 19 points in the first half as West Virginia took a 30-25 lead. He got more help in the second half from Devin Ebanks (14 points) and Kevin Jones (13 points, nine rebounds). Four Tigers scored in double figures - Michael Dixon (15), J.T. Tiller (13), Kim English (10) and Zaire Taylor (10) - but Missouri shot only 32.8 percent from the field.

"Everybody has a hard time scoring against us,'' Huggins said. "We've gotten a whole lot better defensively.''

Missouri was within five points when the Mountaineers' Cam Thoroughman went to the free-throw line with 1:18 to play. He missed both, but Butler scored on a putback to make it 64-57. From there, West Virginia wrapped it up at the line, where it made 25 of 33 attempts.


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