INDIANAPOLIS - Though it probably goes without saying, the string of 3-pointers West Virginia belted Kentucky with in the Elite Eight was not part of the game plan.
"We didn't see that coming at all," said forward Kevin Jones, who had three of the team's 3s in the 10-for-23 effort. "Our shooting percentage hasn't been that way all year. But that's what's special about this team. If one way isn't working, we find different ways to grind out a game. We couldn't get any baskets inside, so we took what they gave us."
The Mountaineers (31-6) had made 10 3s in a game only five other times and were hitting only 33.6 percent of their attempts this season. They play Duke (33-5) in tomorrow's 8:47 p.m. Final Four game at Lucas Oil Stadium and on CBS. The Blue Devils are No. 2 nationally in 3-point percentage defense (27.8).
Yet the privilege of playing in Monday's national championship game will not be decided on the perimeter. That'd go against WVU's mantra, which has now made it to the T-shirts they wear while walking around this dream scene.
Do what we do
The Mountaineers are here with a reputation built not on shooting or offense, but on rebounding and defenses that may change in appearance, but never in tenacity.
"We're not sharpshooters, but we just play basketball," said senior Da'Sean Butler. "When you get down to it, we rebound and defend and do a really good job of that. I think people do overlook that, but at the end of the day you can't impress everybody. You can't make everyone stop complaining. You can't have everyone pick you to win every game. If that was the case, we probably wouldn't be as good as we are now because we would have settled and we'd be satisfied."
The Mountaineers are 10-0 since Feb. 22 and along the way accepted certain realities and responsibilities. The erratic shots, the bad decisions and the other moments that made Coach Bob Huggins cringe have mostly disappeared while other areas have become stronger with the team's conviction
The story is similar for Duke, which has won eight in a row. The Blue Devils have settled into a nice routine with Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith supplying the scoring as everyone else handles the other tasks, none greater than rebounding and defense.
"They've accepted who they are, which is good stuff, and they've tried to become better at who they are instead of trying to become somebody they are not," Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "The acceptance of roles has been key for our team. That's one of the reasons I love these guys, because they haven't tried to be somebody else. We're going to need to be that to have an opportunity to beat West Virginia, because they know who they are."
It took the Mountaineers time to get there. At different points earlier in the season Huggins would get after his players for doing too much with the dribble when that wasn't part of their game or trying too many 3-pointers when they hadn't made many before that.