NCAA notebook: Butler's WVU career ends in painful way
fINDIANAPOLIS -- Da'Sean Butler didn't want it to end like this - in more ways than one.
Butler's last 8 minutes, 59 seconds of his glorious West Virginia basketball career were spent in the Mountaineer locker room, after he crashed to the Lucas Oil Stadium court grabbing his left knee and writhing in pain.
He never played again in WVU's 78-57 NCAA Final Four semifinal rout by Duke. Butler was carried from the floor after being tended to by medical personnel. His injury received a preliminary diagnosis as a sprain, but he will have an MRI Sunday.
The injury occurred when he drove to the basket, collided with Duke center Brian Zoubek, and picked up an offensive foul - Butler's fourth. The Mountaineer star was trying to get past the 7-foot-1 Blue Devil when the contact occurred.
"There was a little bit of a wet area, and I drove the baseline and Zoubek stepped up, so I tried to hop-step across, but I caught it too hard with my left foot. I slipped a little bit. It buckled as I was trying to go across.
I felt it for a second and it really hurt, and then I just couldn't move it. At that point, I was terrified ... I came in here (the locker room) and tried to move around, but it wasn't good.
"I'd do anything to get the last 14 minutes (of the game) back."
Butler finished with 10 points on only 2-for-8 shooting, and was defended well by Duke's Kyle Singler. Butler finished his career with 2,095 points.
"It was hard to get (Butler) the ball just because they just kept switching and denying the ball," WVU's Wellington Smith said. "That's usually what we're supposed to do. We just didn't do it tonight.
"You know, you try to get into it with a couple drives a couple shots. But, you know, some things happened down low that weren't called. So, you know, but he just didn't get into it because he was getting denied the ball the whole time."
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Butler was announced before the game as the winner of the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. Butler was chosen by a vote of Division I coaches, national media and fans. It's given annually to the nation's most outstanding senior student-athlete and highlights community service, excellence in the classroom, outstanding character and competition on the court.
"When you're the third leading scorer anywhere behind Jerry West and 'Hot Rod' Huntley, you've had a heck of a career," Coach Bob Huggins said "And he's done it with class, he's done it with dignity.
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West Virginia point guard Joe Mazzulla had a difficult game physically - and it had nothing to do with his surgically repaired left shoulder that improved greatly in the second half of the season.
Mazzulla received a cut on top of the head in the first 1:06 of the game and had to go to the bench because he was bleeding. He returned a few minutes later.
Then, with 6:56 remaining in the first half, referee Curtis Shaw informed the WVU bench during a timeout that Mazzulla's jersey was torn and the guard needed another one.
While WVU trainer Randy Meador headed to the locker room to find a spare jersey, Shaw told WVU assistant coach Billy Hahn the game couldn't be delayed for the shirt switch, so Mountaineer walk-on Cam Payne removed his warmup and then took off his No. 20 jersey to give to Mazzulla.
About the time, Meador arrived on the scene with a No. 24 jersey, which Mazzulla wore for the rest of the game.
The last Mountaineer player to wear no. 24 was Josh Sowards, in 2006. It was Joe Herber's number from 2001-02 through 2004-05.
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WVU Coach Bob Huggins was asked about the Mountaineers' defensive futility in trying to stop the Duke threesome of Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith, who combined for 63 points. Huggins said there's more to the Blue devils than the nation's highest-scoring trio.
"What's really hard is if you try to do too many things to keep the ball out of those three guys, and those three perimeter guys are terrific. You turn the other two guys (Zoubek and 6-8 Lance Thomas) loose at the rim to rebound the ball, and I don't think you can let them offensive rebound the ball.
"I told our guys and told our guys and told our guys. I say that, my center is 6-6 and theirs is 7-1. And what happens is they get you so deep, and then he does a great job of putting a body on you. He constantly has a body on you. Then it becomes a reaching game.
"My experience has been 7-1 guys outreach 6-6 guys every time. They don't force things. They throw it back out. They get step-in threes. Mike (Krzyzewski) has done a great job with them. He's done an unbelievable job with them."
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The West Virginia cheering section behind the Mountaineer bench on Saturday night included Gov. Joe Manchin and WVU President Jim Clements -- and a couple of other higher-paid men, too.
Supporting Coach Bob Huggins and his team were two head coaches who were Huggins' assistants in the past -- Kansas State Coach Frank Martin, whose team fell in a regional final to Butler last weekend, and Andy Kennedy, the coach at Ole Miss who lost earlier this season at the WVU Coliseum.
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The West Virginia-Duke semifinal meeting in the Final Four was the long-ago Southern Conference foes' 25th all-time, and Lucas Oil Stadium was the ninth different arena in which the Blue Devils and Mountaineers have met.
Only one of those has been in the WVU Coliseum (1977), which opened in 1970-71.
Besides eight games in the Blue Devils' home - storied Cameron Indoor Stadium - and five in WVU's old Field House, the teams have played in at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C. (SC Tournament and Dixie Classic), Municipal Auditorium in Birmingham, Ala. (Birmingham Classic), the Charleston Civic Center (twice) and in NCAA Tournament games at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum, Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and Lucas Oil Stadium.
In December 1956, Duke and WVU met twice in 13 days in Birmingham and Raleigh - the Mountaineers winning in Alabama and the Devils victorious on Tobacco Road.
The two schools at which Bucky Waters was once coach have met only three times in the last 33 seasons - all in the NCAA.
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Payne's last game on West Virginia's roster put him in a special spot, ranking with WVU's Jerry West, Bob Smith and a few other players from the Kanawha Valley who have been on a Final four team.
The walk-on from Charleston became the first Kanawha Valley player on a Final Four team since former St. Albans High star Brett Nelson - now a Marshall assistant coach - played for Florida in the 2000 national semifinals and title game.
A WVU-Duke connection in Saturday's Final four semifinal can be made through the Final Four, too.
Prior to Nelson, the last Kanawha Valley high school product to play in the national semifinals was Buzzy Harrison of South Charleston High. He played for Duke in the 1963 semifinals and '64 semis and title game loss to UCLA.
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The 2010 Final four is the second-highest "seeded" in the past 10 years, with a combined 13 - a 1, a 2 and a pair of 5s. The high in the past decade was 20, in 2006, which included 11th-seeded George Mason, and no No. 1 seeds.
That 2006 Final Four (Florida, UCLA, LSU, George Mason) was the first without a no. 1 seed since 1980.
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This Final foursome began the season in the first 11, so although Butler and Michigan State were No. 5 regional seeds, is it such a surprise they reached Lucas Oil Stadium?
In the preseason Associated Press poll, Michigan State was No. 2, with West Virginia eighth, Duke ninth and Butler 11th. In the final poll, it was Duke No. 3, WVU 6, Butler 11 and MSU 13.
Duke, WVU and the Spartans were in every weekly poll this season. Butler fell out from Dec. 28-Jan. 25, then returned to the rankings. Duke's lowest spot was 10, WVU 11 and Michigan State 14.
Nine teams were ranked in all 19 polls - Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, WVU, Villanova, Purdue, Michigan State, Georgetown and Tennessee.
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When the 2010 NCAA Tournament is chronicled and the category is "best quotes," maybe the MVP is the same guy who was votes Most Outstanding Player in the East Regional - West Virginia point guard Joe Mazzulla.
Last week, Mazzulla was asked about how the Mountaineers work the way they do, in reference to Coach Bob Huggins compared to Kentucky Coach John Calipari before the regional final at the Carrier Dome.
"I just think it's a matter of (Huggins) yells at us so much that he doesn't give us enough time and energy to not get along with one another, because we're always complaining about him being on our case.
"Basically, at practice, we just come together to try to find ways to get him to stop yelling at us and getting on our case. We've become so close because we have one common denominator - and that's not getting yelled at."
Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-7949.