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Just Another ‘Da’ For Mountaineers

January 31, 2010

MORGANTOWN - Double-digit lead. Double-digit deficit. Last-second victory.

Just another 'Da' at the office for the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Da'Sean Butler hit a game-winning 15-foot jumper with 20 seconds left as the Mountaineers pocketed a rare victory against Louisville, the third time this season Butler has won a game with the last shot.

''I've seen Da'Sean hit so many of those, I knew it was good once it left his hand,'' WVU forward Kevin Jones said.

In case you're wondering - and it's unlikely you are - yes, Butler always gets the last shot.

''He's our leader, we trust him with the big shots,'' said Devin Ebanks, who had a conventional three-point play, a steal, and an enormous offensive rebound inside the last 2 minutes. ''If he comes up with a miss, we're all going to go get the rebound.''

Though he's suffered through a streaky season with his shot, Butler rarely misses at the end, even when everyone in the building knows where the ball is going.

''It's difficult, but I just relax,'' Butler said. ''I really don't make too much of it because stress and all that stuff, I don't do too well with it.''

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins knows the reason Butler always delivers in the clutch.

''I think he relishes that,'' Huggins said. ''There's nobody that wants to win more than 'Da' does. Nobody works harder at it than what Da'Sean does. People say 'well you don't get mad at Da'Sean?' Why would I get mad at 'Da'? He's the first one in the gym; he's the last one to leave. He knows everything that's supposed to go on, he studies it, he's very committed to being a good player.''

Soon enough, the Mountaineers record books will show just how far he's come.

With his 27 points Saturday, Butler moved to within 15 of tying Rod Thorn for fifth on the school's all-time scoring list. Some time in the next two weeks, he'll likely be third, right behind Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley.

Saturday marked Butler's 93rd double-figure scoring game in a Mountaineers uniform (and third in a black Mountaineers uniform).

No one had ever done that.

That's not bad for a four-star recruit out of New Jersey who arrived in Morgantown at 6-foot-7 and 185 pounds soaking wet.

The points are one thing.

'' Everybody in this league knows Da'Sean's a great scorer,'' Ebanks said.

But Butler's more than just someone who fills the stat sheet (he added three rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 39 minutes).

''Honestly, I'm the leader as a point guard, but on the court, Da'Sean is the leader of this team,'' Truck Bryant said. ''He's going to take the last shot. And he's going to do everything that we need in order to win. He's a great player, and I love playing with him.

''I was just saying last week to somebody that Da'Sean is definitely the best player I've played with.''

West Virginia staked itself to a 13-0 lead in this game, then watched as Louisville scored 44 of the next 71 points. With 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Cardinals led by a dozen. They were shooting the lights out - 77.8 percent on nine 3-point attempts in the first half - and it looked like they were going to continue their mastery of the Mountaineers.

First, Bob Huggins ordered a change of defense to the 1-3-1 zone, John Beilein style.


''Because we were running out of defenses to play,'' Huggins said.

That helped push the Cardinals out of their comfortable shooting positions, and they started missing.

''Usually when we switch defenses like that, everybody's all over the place,'' Butler said. ''Everybody kept their head and played like men.''

But something else happened that few of us even saw.

Butler collected his mates during a dead ball and did his best to calm them.

''Just relax,'' he said. ''We're going to make mistakes just like they are going to make some mistakes at some time during the game. But you just need to relax. You can't panic or anything like that. And everybody just settled down.''

Those are the type of words that can narrow some wide eyes. There is no place in the record book for conversations like that.

If there were, you can bet Butler would be in the top two or three there, too.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail

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